May 20, 2010

Butch Walker & The Black Widows/ Locksley - Webster Hall - May 20th,2010

I realized as I was walking to Webster Place on Thursday night that I was introduced to both Locksley and Butch Walker by going to the gym. (See - That's why fitness is so important!) Nowadays I do Bikram Yoga, but about 4 or 5 years ago I was a member of New York Sports Club. Whenever I was on the tread mill, 2 of the videos I would often see were Locksley's “Don't Make Me Wait” and Butch Walkers "Bethamphetamine (Pretty, Pretty)." I familiarized myself with the latter artist more than the former. I guess Walker had more of a buzz due to his work with the likes of Pink and Avril Lavigne.

I know I am digressing before even really beginning this posting, but I need to get something off my chest. Concert halls in New York City are really starting to bug me. Performers who are packing houses are being rushed off stage. Opening bands, who need to be seen, are being rushed as the audiences filter into the hall. Thursday was a good example.

Locksley went on at 7:46 instead of 8:00PM. I bet the reason was so they could get through their 13 song set, leaving enough time to set up for Butch Walker and The Black Widows. Most of Locksley's songs are under 3 minutes!!  Was it that necessary for them to start early?

When Butch Walker got on stage, he was hyper conscious of his time. He cut one or two of his opening numbers and few more once the band came out. In Minneapolis, Butch Walker did 23 songs; in Philadelphia he did 20, In New York, he RUSHED through 16 songs because they needed to empty out for the following dance event. THAT SUCKS!!!!  I love NYC, I was born here. But from the perspective of a concert goer, it's probably better to live in St. Paul.

Locksley opened up their set with “21st Century” from their new Be In Love CD. From the moment Locksley got on stage, there was no doubt they were a power pop-rock band (with the emphasis on power). All three front-men harmonized with each other but lead guitarist Kai Kennedy and most often Jesse Laz performed lead vocals.

During the show, Jesse Laz never let you forget the name of the band. It was a smart move. Most opening bands don't even say their names. After the song “Down for Two Long,” Jesse spelled Locksley for the crowd over the intro for following song “There's A Love.” The song sounded like The Beatles doing “Mr Postman.” I heard a heavy early Beatles influence in Locksley's music which was clarified by covers of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Please Please Me” on YouTube.

For “All of the Time” bass player, Jordan Laz prompted the audience to clap along. His brother Jesse sang in a higher vocal register which gave his voice a raspy quality that reminded me of Ian Lloyd, in the band Stories, singing “Brother Louie.”

The members of Locksley had a lot of fun on stage and gave a true rock performance in the spirit of The Kinks and The Who. During the guitar solo for “She Does,” Jesse rapped his arms around Kai Kennedy's waist and played the solo. They continued by doing the solo together, Jesse played utilizing his left hand and Kai played using his right.

My favorite song of the set was “Darling, It's True,” with it's continuous backbeat and the background vocals of “Go-go-go, Oh-oh-oh, Yea -yea-yea" – on the chorus. Locksley ended the set with “The Whip.” It's the kind song that can make an audience want to sing in unison, sweat and spill beer. During the solo part, Kennedy walked to the very tip of the stage and played the guitar part from Gary Glitter's “Rock-n-Roll.”

Butch Walker's loyal fan base did not seem to know Locksley when they walked out but, within the first two songs, the audience was completely sold. Locksley's set was more like a full concert performance. They may be an opening band now but not for long. If you currently have a ticket to see Butch Walker on tour, get there early. Locksley is worth checking out.

Butch Walker
There is no doubt that Butch Walker is a great songwriter and musician. Those 2 facts are confirmed by the numerous bands and artists Walker has worked with in the music industry. However, the main reason Butch Walker has such a loyal following are his live concerts. Before Thursday night, I've seen Butch Walker 2 other times. Each time I've seen him perform in concert, he has given 110% of himself (If 110% isn't working for you, just pick an arbitrary number over a hundred).

Butch Walker has been doing what he's doing for a very long time. (I'm trying to avoid saying “seasoned performer,” which always makes me think of barbecue sauce on chicken). He knows how to intimately open up his set and slowly accelerate to a high point that ends with a bang. Walker is a ham, who loves being on stage and his fans love him for it.

Butch Walker walked out as, to what sounded like big band music from the 30's & 40's, playing over the sound system. There was a clarinet in the forefront of the music, so I will assume it was Benny Goodman. Walker sat at the keyboard and played the opening chords to “Cigarette Lighter Love Song.” The moment after Walker started singing the audience automatically joined him. Somewhere in the middle of the song, Walker stopped playing keys as the audience and he continued singing the song.

Like the last time Walker played Webster Hall, the keyboards and a few of the guitar amps had white Christmas tree lights draped over them. I liked the affect. When he did the intimate “Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You” the song and the lights made it feel like I was at a small concert in someone's house or apartment. I think we were slated to hear a third song with just Walker on piano but he noted he had limited time.

Butch Walker started “Closer To The Truth and Further From The Sky” as the band walked on stage. Except for the bass player, the band was basically same band Walker had the last two times I saw him but this time they had the name The Black Widows. (The last time I saw the band, Randy Michaels was on bass; this time it's Jake Sinclair from The Films).

Before doing, “Uncomfortably Numb,” Butch Walker asked the audience to raise their hands. He than asked “Who's from New York, and who's from New Jersey.” He followed it up with “I bet the people from New Jersey had their hand up first.” The implication I got was that New Yorkers are too cool to raise their hands. On occasion, I have found that to be true.

For the intro on “Pretty Melody," Keyboard player Wes Flowers and Jake Sinclair both sat at the keyboards to play the introduction that on the CD was played on violins. The song took off from there with more of a rock than ballad feel that it had on the recording. Walker even did one of those spread leg rock-n-roll stances.

Through all of the show Butch Walker seemed to be in a really jovial mood. Before starting“Taste of Red,” with James' song “Laid” as an intro, Walker joked about how everything sounded like Christmas on the guitar he had in his hand. He even started playing a Christmas song then quickly abandoned the idea. (Don't ask which song, I didn't write it in my notes). Walker did a lot of clowning around during songs, many times with guitarist Fran Capitanelli. During the song I just mentioned, Walker put his hand completely over Capitanelli's face as he took a solo.

When Butch Walker was about to do “Here Comes a Heartache” he said that he takes his doctor on tour with him. Walker explained, that whenever he needed it, the doctor would give him a shot of B12 in the ass. The Dr. walked out to the opposite side of the stage. At first he played accordion and then moved on to pedal steel guitar.   ( I never got The Doctor's real name, it may be Greg Leisz,  but I'm not sure).

When the steady bounding beat from the downstairs club could be heard between songs in his set. Walker noted the sound of the dreaded disco. Walker still calls what is now known as dance music “disco.” That's okay, it just makes it all the more clear that he has an aversion to dance music especially if it's cause for shortening his set.

I was a little surprised the Butch Walker only did 4 songs from the new album. There are a few songs which I would have loved to have heard such as “Canadian Ten” or “Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home.” However, he did do “Trash Day” and later, after a funny long ass adlib song intro, he did “She Likes Hair Bands.”

During the entire show the smell of pot was wafting over the audience. Butch Walker said “Who has fuckin' pot – That's so cute – it's like we're in the 70's.” Then he picks up on the moment and plays a Hendrix lick before going into “Ladies and Gentlemen...”

As showman, I have always a found an honesty in Butch Walker's performance. Also, I found that he knows how to work with every moment that happens in the room. In the middle of the show, Walker said “I always get tongue tied in New York I've got something to prove....So Fuck it – let's not even worry about that –(sarcastically) I'm glad we had this discussion.” Then he asked the guy selling beer as he walked through the audience “Can you throw me one of those.” Walker caught the beer, took a sip and then jokingly said to take it out of the door. (i.e.admission).

When Butch Walker started the show he looked like Elvis with a motorcycle jacket and black jeans. He later stripped off the jacket to reveal his wife beater undershirt and his tattooed arms. By the time, Walker reached the middle of the show you could see an adrenaline rush had taken place. Instead of grabbing and giving his guitars to the guy on the sidelines, Walker began throwing them.

The Black Widows and Butch Walker are perfect fit. With Chris Unck looking like a young Steven Van Zandt, the Black Widows seem like Butch Walker's version of The E street Band minus Clarence Clemens.  Wes Flowers always makes me laugh because he seems so non-nonchalant. No matter what Flowers' is playing, he makes it look effortless and has this kind of blank I'm-just-hanging-out persona. I thought Darren Dodd worked well as a drummer; he new how to hold back and he knew how to slam it when it came time to rock. Each member of the band played some sort of percussion instrument at one point or another, whether it was shakers, tambourine, sleigh bells, or the snare and tom placed on opposite sides in front of the drum kit.

Butch Walker ended the set with “The Best Thing You Never Had.” There was a long jam at the end with Walker crying out “You Never Had” several times. The song was a big dramatic finish which included Walker jumping off the front of the drum kit, laying down on the floor and standing on the monitors in front of his mic. The song ended with Walker looking into the audience then simply walking off stage.

The encore was the kind of encore only Butch Walker can pull off. I wanted to hear “Ponce De Leon Ave.” and the woman next to me wanted “The Three Kids in Brooklyn.” He did both, the song she wanted first and the one I wanted last. When Walker came out for the encore he had what he called “a little guitar” in hand. He told the audience the little guitar means party. He then asked what does little guitar mean and the audience answered “Party!” For “The Three Kids in Brooklyn,” Sinclair moved to snare and toms and Unck played the bass.

I kind of lost track of song order on the encore, but I'm pretty sure that for the next the song Walker did was “They Don't Know What We Know and Hall and Oats' “Rich Girl” strung together. For the song, he played on an instrument I never knew existed, it was a violin-mandolin. It had the length of a mandolin but the body banjo.

Before the song “ Hot Girls in Good Moods” Walker said “Let's go out as the most un-coolest audience that ever was.” Then came the point that happens in most Butch Walker shows, he went out into the middle of the audience. The audience went absolutely nuts. When Walker got in the middle of the room he asked people to sit down on the floor. Some people did, but others looked at him as if to say “I ain't sittin' on this dirty ass floor!”  Afterward Walker jumped up and down with the audience and made his way back to the stage and his gold guitar.

"Ponce De Leon Ave." is my favorite Butch Walker song to date. So, I'm not sure if it was the last song or next to last song. Maybe it was neither – who cares.   Look, I love Butch Walker's music. I was having a good time. Fuck my notes!!! I think I gave a good idea of what the concert was like.

Butch Walker and The Black Widows are:
Butch Walker on vocals, percussion, acoustic and electric guitar
Chris Unck on guitar, steel slide guitar and background vocals
Fran Capitanelli  on guitar, background vocals
Wes Flowers on keyboards and background vocals
Jake Sinclair on bass percussion and background vocals
Darren Dodd on drums and background vocals

1. Cigarette Lighter Love Song
2. Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You
3. Closer To The Truth and Further From The Sky
4. Uncomfortably Numb
5. Pretty Melody
6. Laid by James Intro/The Taste Of Red
7 Here Comes The Heartache
8. Trash Day
9. Ladies & Gentlemen, The Let's Go Out Tonites
10.Too Famous to Get Dressed
11.She Likes Hair Bands/Adlib song on spot as an intro
12.Best Thing You Never Had
13.The 3 Kids In Brooklyn
14.They Don't Know What We Know /Rich Girl (Hall & Oats Cover)
15.Hot Girls In Good Moods
16.Ponce De Leon Ave.

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