By Bruce Sylvester
I’d only seen John Butler Trio once (years ago at a Newport Folk Festival) and didn’t have any of his discs, so when someone offered me a ticket to his Friday show at Boston’s Bank of America Pavilion, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond high-energy roots rock/reggae/dance hall/blues.
With Byron Luiters on bass and Nicky Bomba on drums, Butler dug into various facets of the blues (rural slide guitar, then electric urban) without watering down any of their flavors (as so sadly often happens when bands hit the big time). As for an indigenous wind instrument, California native Butler turned ethnic with a didgeridoo from his adopted homeland Australia’s Aboriginal tribes.
With the congenial crowd dancing happily, plenty of material came from his 2010 April Uprising: “Don’t Want to See Your Face,” “One Way Road,” “Revolution,” “Close to You.” As for social/political commentary that’s free of verbal overkill (a strength of reggae’s), “I’d Do Anything (Soldier’s Lament)” is written largely in the voice of a teenaged girl who’s desperate to reinvent herself in the image of what she thinks she ought to be as she uses a bullet for a mirror. Butler leaves it for us to draw our own implications about parallels.
Butler’s wife Danielle Caruana’s band Mama Kin opened the show. When she joined his set, he seemed to be real in love with her. The show ended festively with all of the trio jamming on percussion instruments.