John Butler

Tin Shed Tales solo and Intimate with Felicity Groom. The Governor Hindmarsh. 30 Apr 2012

Mentioning the names John Butler and the Gov in the same sentence is likely to set a few hearts aflutter, and rightly so, as John and his Trio have become quite accustomed to the larger end of the venue spectrum of late, and it certainly was great to see John back in the intimate settings of the Gov. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him at this venue (I’ve been a JBT groupie for years!); the last time, I managed to be a part of the few hundred who saw John at a MySpace secret show (does anyone remember MySpace?), which happened to fall on my birthday about five years ago. Some pretty high standards were set at such a show, but I had no doubts that John would do his best to satisfy my expectations. And I’m rather pleased to report that I am indeed a satisfied customer!

I headed down to the Gov on Mon Apr 30 for the last of a string of solo shows that John had been doing around the country, and after a small debacle with guest lists, I was in and enjoying the vibe, despite missing the first act, Felicity Groom. The stage had been modelled as a tin shed, in keeping with the tour-name, complete with artwork, hanging skateboards and plenty of guitars. It certainly set the right mood, and as John came out things just kept on getting better and better! Playing solo is not a new thing for John, since he started out busking on the streets of Fremantle all those years ago, and even modern fans would have some familiarity due to his Live At The Twist & Shout album One Small Step, which demonstrated both the versatility of John’s solo playing, as well as the many ways that familiar tunes could be re-envisioned.

Things began nicely, with hits like Better Than getting the crowd on side early. John varied the pace nicely throughout the set, playing a mix of new and old, b-sides and hits, and even a cover! He changed instrumentation, cracking out the banjo for a bit of old-time music, and telling a nice family story about how he came to play his infamous Dobro slide guitar, before breaking into a brilliant take on traditional Irish tune Danny Boy. New tunes like Kimberly, a cataloguing of the terrible plight being suffered in this beautiful region of our country and an ‘ode’ to the egos of politicos like Mr Barnett, went down rather well, and gave a nice taste of what’s to come in the JBT camp.

There was no shortage of classic numbers either, with tunes like the brilliant bluesy Pickapart resurfacing for all the old-school fans, and a great funky reggae groove played out for Used To Get High. John mucked about with a phrase-looper for an interesting take on Revolution, and kept the vibe high with a happy-family-moments tale serving as precursor to the beautiful Losing You.

Finally, proceedings for the main set drew to a close with a thumping rendition of Zebra, much to the enjoyment of the capacity crowd.

John took a short break while the crowd roared, and was soon back on stage for a welcome encore. Joined by Felicity Groom for another newbie, the pace was heightened once again for an earth-shaking take on Betterman, apparently being the first time John had brought this one out on the tour, and in a long time. It was certainly welcome! There were definitely a lot of old fans around the Gov that night! As well as playing a fantastic mix of tunes, John had played up to the intimate vibe by talking lots and telling lots of great little anecdotes throughout both sets. It was great to get to see this side of a performance, since building such chatty rapport with the crowd at larger venues is much more difficult.

Thankfully, the crowd stayed quiet for the most part too (except for the noisy bogans behind me… really, I don’t care who bought your tickets, which song you think is funny, or what you’re having for tea tomorrow night), which was great to hear since talking so often spoils the vibe of such a show. But at the end of the evening, as the last song was being readied, and John told his final tale, no words were needed; instrumental tune Ocean made for a fitting finale to a brilliant show, and as always, John really let fly on this one. He certainly is a gifted guitarist! It may be some time before fans can get another chance to see John in such an intimate setting, so I am definitely grateful to have been a part of the Tin Shed Tales story.

Luke Balzan

When: 29 to 30 Apr
Where: The Gov
Bookings: Closed


Photography by Aaron Vinall