Easily one of the best performers, songwriters, and singers of our time—whose notoriety spans from performing to producing—Butch Walker has been luring audiences in for over a decade now, seeking and gaining ownership of their eyes and ears on any given night. Some call him “over-exaggerated.” I call him a bone-chilling natural and an escape from the insufferable that we sometimes have to call music.
Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony and NYC’s Irving Plaza gained ownership of him on the first Monday and Tuesday of April 2007. He played to his many loyal fans, as well as newcomers—some being a pack of girls maybe 10 years of age who thought it was grown-up to shout “Hey sexy!” when he was near—who wholeheartedly screamed, chanted and bought him drinks at his (unnecessary) request.
With an extensive roster full of strong songs, it’s hard to guess just what he’ll throw at you. This time around he seemed to favor ones he’d written while fronting his former band Marvelous 3, like “Alecia Amnesia,” “Indie Queen” and “Over Your Head,” giving his fans even the slightest bit of hope that the rumor of a reunion—after these last few “Butch Walker shows” for an indefinite period—just might be true.
In the midst of Marvelous goodies at The Stone Pony show were, of course, much loved masterpieces “Mixtape,” “Sober,” “Too Famous To Get Fully Dressed” and “Best Thing You Never Had” off of his three accredited solo albums (Left Of Self-Centered, Letters and Rise And Fall Of Butch Walker And The Let’s-Go-Out-Tonites), all sung with raw emotion and a set of pipes that support a falsetto not many are blessed with. It’s no wonder so many fans have such an emotional attachment to his performances, with some even, in a sense, paying to tour around the country with him.
Typically enough, the former Marvelous 3 front man ended the night near the ocean by paying tribute to the Garden State in an I-don’t-care-if-this-is-overused fashion, pissing off the bartenders and ripping into “Born To Run.” I have a feeling—due to the lackluster sing-along—not many Jersey natives cared. We can only hear so many Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi covers from visiting artists before we become indifferent. But at least Walker seemed to understand that, yet he had the audacity to go ahead and do it anyway. That, after all, is a very Jersey thing to do.
He played essentially the same set list the next night at Irving Plaza and the crowd was even bigger and louder. Apparently Walker had been playing Don Henley’s famous “New York Minute” at previous shows, so I got my hopes up, but he still stuck with Springsteen even while in the sleepless city. As usual, he dove into the crowd during “Lights Out” while he coaxed everyone into dancing. Once again his energy, swagger and emotionally stunning songs prevailed over any deficiencies—like a backing band that suffices but doesn’t do him any justice—that could have come his way.