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Published: 2002/08/30
by Margot Main

John Butler Trio, Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA, 8/16

The John Butler Trio started touring in the States this year and has made
memorable impressions opening for several familiar jam-rock bands such as
Robert Robert and Gov't Mule. Also, this Australian band was very
noticeable during this summer at music festivals such as Bonnaroo in
Tennessee and High Sierra in Northern California. On August 16, 2002 the
John Butler Trio continued to present their original material live in the
U.S., opening for the John Mayer/Guster show at the Greek Theater in
Berkeley, CA.

Immediately noticeable was Butler's stallion style guitar playing. He
galloped hard riffs over rugged terrain – destination, determination. His
bold voice combined with his strong bodied guitar captured the attention of
John Mayer's rail riding sorority girl fans and their boyfriends.
Appropriately, Butler's "Betterman" expressed the paradox of craving freedom
and wanting intimacy. The lines: "...Betterman I am since I come into
contact with you…"; "...I can't be in a relationship but I still feel for
you…"; "...don't want to be a thorn in your side good woman…"; "...cos
you are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful woman…"; were sung with a passion
deeply rooted in a sensitive melody line embraced by desirous clefs bursting
with rhythm.

John Butler's style of wrapping didactic lyrics around a complementary music
structure and enforced by augmented jams was also demonstrated with his
song, "Take". The initial riffs on his amplified eleven string acoustic
guitar sounded like measured doses of Spanish flavored Appalachia set free
in the outback of Australia. The tasteful introduction led into an
unexpected tempo change with drums and bass exploding into a sound similar
to 1,000 charging horses storming across a vast expanse of land to claim
redemption. Perhaps spawned by John Butler's deep love for earth (as
evidenced by the Australian Uranium Mining map included in his CD, "3") the
song could be directed toward those who selfishly destroy its natural beauty
without thinking about contaminating habitats with devastating toxins.
"...see if you don't got the time to show just a little respect; you won't
get any in return; and if you don't got time to have an open ear; you won't
have anything to learn; don't know why you don't even understand…". Or,
perhaps, the song comments on our ability to communicate with each other's
humanity.

The John Butler Trio played solid, original music (with a serious drop kick
on the backbeat) that utilized sounds created with an upright double bass,
congas and kettledrum as well as demonstrated Butler's talent to work his
eleven string guitar like a mule. They are a rock band jamming with
purpose.

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