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Live Review | John Butler Trio perform an incredible set at Bristol’s O2 Academy

by Dylan Graham


On Tuesday 16th October, John Butler Trio (perhaps a more accurate name would be John Butler Quintet nowadays) played at Bristol’s O2 Academy – their first show in the city since 2014.

The evening started with Australian solo artist Bobby Alu, performing his laid-back ukulele driven songs and sharing his stories from his life. Alu set the tone nicely for the evening – perhaps a highlight was when he put down his ukulele and picked up his drum sticks to play a short but rhythmic percussive piece. Bobby entertained the crowd well before the main event, and as he left the stage a sense of anticipation as to what the night would bring swept over the crowd.

Soon after, John Butler Trio took to the stage. The main focus of the night was songs off their new album ‘Home’, opening with the first track from the album ‘Tahitian Blue’. John Butler has two decades worth of material, yet the crowd seemed to love his new tracks just as much as his old. Butler continued to perform an older song, ‘Betterman’, before putting down his guitar and picking up the banjo. This was the first time of the night that the whole crowd seemed to move as Butler performed a short ‘Hoe Down’ before jumping into his 2007 single ‘Better Than’.

A mid set highlight came from ‘Blame It On Me’, off his 2014 record ‘Flesh and Blood’. This song features an impressive 60s inspired psychedelic guitar solo. This certainly showed a different side to Butler’s songwriting and performance. Although most of his tracks feature long impressive solo’s, ‘Blame It On Me’ shows a moodier side to Butler, an impressive display of his ability to subtly switch between different genres.

Before long, everyone but Butler left the stage. John took a seat and gave a small speech about how divisive the current political climate can feel at times, and that his next song was his contribution towards bringing people together. What followed was a magnificent rendition of his epic 10 plus minute instrumental ‘Ocean’. The ever evolving piece of music touched everyone at the O2 Academy that night. As Butler played the final note of the song the crowd erupted into applause – it seemed he could have continued to play ‘Ocean’ for hours and no one would have complained. This was definitely the highlight of the set.

As Butler’s band returned to the stage, spirits were the highest they had been all night. The group performed a few more songs off the new album before breaking for a two song encore. The night ended with a performance of his 2003 single ‘Zebra’. An incredible night of music from an incredible artist, John Butler Trio managed to entertain the Bristolian crowd for two hours.