Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Butch Walker Leaves Pittsburgh in Tears With First Show of Tour

Having tweeted using the hashtag #GetReadyGetSetSad to describe it, one may think that Butch Walker's tour to support his new album, Afraid of Ghosts, would be a depression-themed run in the wake of his father's death.

And the first stop of the tour in Pittsburgh did have its share of tear-jerking moments.  But not before Walker single-handedly revved up the crowd with just a guitar and bass drum.

Actually, I should say "single-leggedly" as Walker shared that he had torn "something" in his knee simply by getting out of his bath tub.  But you'd never know it by the ferocious performance that he delivered throughout his set, sans any other band members.  Perhaps his vintage Slayer shirt helped.  But back to the set...

That set started quietly enough, with Walker alone at the piano, illuminated by the filament of a single incandescent light bulb.  Unlike the chatty crowd a few years back when Walker played the Club at Stage AE, the audience at Mr. Smalls was respectfully quiet, mesmerized by Walker's renditions of "Afraid of Ghosts," "Joan," and "Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought of You."

But that would be it for the sad stuff for a while.  Pounding a bass drum with his one good leg and tearing up his guitars' fretboards with his 10 presumably good fingers, Walker had the crowd clapping, singing, and dancing as he energetically performed songs from throughout his catalog, such as "Pretty Melody," "The Weight of Her," and set closer "The 3 Kids in Brooklyn."

However, the encore was what this show was all about.  Walker dedicated the final songs to his dad, "Big Butch."  Sandwiched between "Coming Home" and the expected tribute from Ghosts, "Father's Day," was something remarkable and special.  Walker, joined by the two members of opening act, The Dove & The Wolf, performed an acoustic version of Bette Midler's "The Rose."  Walker's sniffles were audible as he sang "It's...the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live."  His tears were visible.  And his love for his father was unmistakeable.

If you didn't cry a little during the song, you simply are not human.

It's natural that, the more he performs this encore, the more likely Walker will be to hold it together.  But Pittsburgh got treated to the first time Walker played this momentous encore.  And got to witness emotion that the spiritual calluses of touring may obscure from other fans further downstream in the tour schedule.

'Twas a special night in Pittsburgh indeed for Butch Walker fans.