Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
January 7, 2010
Butch Walker is a Taylor Swift fan. That’s right, people. The critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/producer performed a cover of Taylor Swift’s massively popular song “You Belong With Me” during his late afternoon soundcheck last Thursday while in town to perform four nights at Schubas. Walker even recorded his own version of the Swift hit and released it on iTunes this past November (2009). I was lucky to make it to even one of Walker’s four shows in Chicago because they were all SOLD OUT. Funnily enough, the particular night I attended was where Butch played his most recent album Sycamore Meadows from front to back, which happens to be the only full-length LP I own by Walker. Therefore, I was actually familiar with all of the music the man performed that night. Mind you, I discovered all of this information after arriving at the venue and striking up a conversation with a few die-hard Butch Walker fans surrounding me in the front row.
More photos of Butch Walker from his third night in Chicago after the jump…
Set List / Chicago / Night 3 / Sycamore Meadows
The Weight Of Her
Going Back / Going Home
Here Comes The…
Ponce De Leon Ave.
Ships In A Bottle
She’s Got You (Patsy Cline cover)
Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You
The 3 Kids In Brooklyn
A Song For The Metalheads
Closer To The Truth And Further From The Sky
“What did I miss?” asked Walker upon hearing a sudden outburst of laughter emanating from the back of the crowd. “I always miss out on something.” Before Butch took to the stage last week, his guitar/piano technician spoke the nightly disclaimer that has become a ritual that only Walker fanatics respect and understand. Walker’s guitar tech politely asked audience members to take any “important” conversations to the front bar room of the venue so as not to disrupt Walker’s performance. Well, there will always be that one drunk dude who is at a concert for purely social reasons and not because he actually wants to listen to the artist play their music live. “Don’t let me interrupt you,” said a desolate Walker when an annoying guy in the crowd would NOT stop talking during a more somber number Walker was about to begin. God, I hate those people…
Butch Walker has been releasing his own material since 2002. Needless to say, the man has quite a musical catalog of songs to choose from when performing a gig. At last week’s show I noticed a music stand placed to the right of Walker when he sat down at the center of the small Schubas stage to play his various acoustic and electric guitars. A black three-ring binder was placed on the music stand containing laminated sheets of paper with all of the lyrics to Walker’s songs. I have to admit, I was at first shocked that such a talented musician like Walker would need a cheat sheet of sorts to remember the words to his own songs. I mean, he wrote all of the lyrics himself, so why wouldn’t he remember them? However, after chatting with a super nice fan to my right, she kindly reminded me that Walker has not played some of the songs from Sycamore Meadows since recording them for the album, which was released in November 2008. Of course, I then forgave Walker and berated myself for being so hard on the guy. After all, it’s not like I could do any better.
Just in case you were wondering (you probably weren’t, though), my favorite track off of Sycamore Meadows is by far “Vessels.” Walker performed every song in the exact order in appears on the record, placing “Vessels” at the halfway mark. When playing an intimate venue like Chicago’s classic Schubas, it’s easy to hold conversations with your fans spread out all throughout the venue’s space. Not that the space in Schubas is the size of an arena basketball court or anything. The tavern can hold a total of 250 people in the concert room. And that’s when it is completely sold out and packed to the point where fans are pressed up against each other shoulder to shoulder. Walker had no problem interacting with his fans and made sure to talk in between every song. Eventually, fans got a little too carried away upon realizing how easy it was to get a word in edgewise with the featured performer of the evening. “Anyways…Shut up, it’s my show,” exclaimed Walker with a hint of sarcasm at one point. “I’m giving you guys too much rope.”
The order of Sycamore Meadows tracks was broken only once when Butch decided to throw in a Patsy Cline cover of “She’s Got You” in an ode to old school classic country music, which he grew up listening to in Atlanta, Georgia. “This is the difference between a record and playing a live show,” Walker explained to fans. “With a record, you sequence it so that the songs are in a specific order for effect.” Walker chose to invite only one additional musician to perform with him for the third night in Chicago. For the life of me, I cannot remember what Canadian band the dude is from, but Walker’s one band member was a guy named Gregory who learned how to play all of the Sycamore Meadows songs that very morning, the day of the show. Gregory sang background vocals, harmonizing perfectly with Walker while also playing keyboards, piano, and melodica. Or as Butch calls the melodica…the “hooter.”
“This is probably my favorite record I have ever gotten to do,” admitted Walker near the final leg of the set. While reminiscing about the horrific California fires that destroyed his Malibu home a few years ago, Butch told fans that “You feel like you’ve lost your arm when you can’t write songs and you’ve been writing them your whole life.” According to Walker, he was struggling with his first case of writer’s block before his home was destroyed. Looking back, Walker now sees the fire as a blessing in disguise, for it jump-started his songwriting, which lead to what is now the Sycamore Meadows album. Butch ended the night with the song “ATL” about his hometown of Atlanta. Get ready for Walker’s next album coming out in February. You can download two new songs “Trash Day” and “She Likes Hair Bands” on iTunes now.