John Butler Trio @ The Palais (with Emma Louise) – 2 Apr ’14

So practically sitting in the rafters of the Palais, the night started with overhearing a conversation that went something like this:

“I can’t see anything!”

“What, you don’t have 20/15 vision?!”

It took some considerable constraint to prevent an outburst of laughter, but it would have been completely inappropriate in light of the angelic voices on stage with Emma Louise accompanied by her small band.

The spacious, ethereal sounds created by the gentle most guitar, sparing drums and barely a tinkering of keys alongside heavenly harmonies commanded attention. But engaging in this relied purely on sound, being too far to even decipher a facial expression or a glimmer of eye gazes from the stage into the crowd.

Truly beautiful sounds, but something a little livelier would have gone down well too. And as if sensing those pleas, the following sounds offered the closest to a change in tempo before the familiar Jungle.

So despite not being able to see anything clearly on the stage, there was a definite change in the air with the arrival of the John Butler Trio. I’m not talking about line up changes with Grant Gerathy joining on drums a few months ago. Something on stage, around the band – everything emanated happy. It was already apparent last year but it’s engulfing the band’s presence now. Pure, simple happiness and joy.

The all too common guitar opening of Revolution was met with exuberant applause, lasting long enough to show appreciation without interfering with the song itself, embodying vulnerability and strength. But versatility was the name of the game, changing things up with newer sounds including Blame it on Me and its reggae fused beats.

Even with the band leaving the stage, an undirected ushering of silence commands those present before sporadic random cheers break the silence, growing as everyone starts to latch on to what was going on. That live staple of Ocean, the simplicity in being delivered solo on stage by Butler but inherently complex in its evolution on stage. Always evolving, and always a highlight.

But the night also shed some light into the significance of the music, with a declaration that the “songs are the boss of me”.

A duet with Ainslie Wills on Young and Wild provided poignant storytelling before Betterman shook things up for a turn of events. With venue dance rules communicated, Don’t Wanna See Your Face was the open invitation to dance.

Important lessons were also communicated – exert caution if heckling at a JBT show, or shut up. Passionate discussions and concerns around governance and development before a carefully selected tune was met with a rebuttal from the audience of something to do with progress. Let’s just say that wasn’t received well – from the stage or the crowd.

Natural order however, was restored again through the power of music. There’s no arguing with a little bit of Funky Tonight to forget about all your woes.

The next time will be in a completely different place – can’t wait to see a festival crowd vibing to the sounds of JBT at Lollapalooza!

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