Butch Walker hosted a basement house party at the MOD Club in Toronto last night and unfortunately, only a handful of people got the invitation. Walker, an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/producer/performer, blamed the disappointing turnout on the monsoon-like rainstorm hittingToronto, but that didn’t stop him and his band The Black Widows from delivering a balls-to-the-wall set of rock ‘n’ roll.
The night began with Walker casually welcoming his guests and delivering a solo a-capella version of “Cigarette Lighter Love Song”, a track by his 90’s power-pop trio Marvelous 3 (you may recall their top-10 hit “Freak Of The Week” in 1998). He continued solo and acoustic for half-a-dozen tunes before The Widows arrived and officially got the party started. It was almost like being in someone’s basement or backyard and having a spontaneous rock concert break out.
Walker relied heavily on material from the recently released The Spade as well as 2010’s I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, moving effortlessly between acoustic, electric and mandolin throughout the night. In fact it was difficult at times to keep track of the Widows who changed positions and instruments throughout the set with just about each of the five core members switching up on drums, bass, percussion, keyboards and guitar all night. The band swelled to eight members at times when a baritone sax player and an extra back-up singer (opener Carrie Ann Hearst) were added to the line-up.
With the party atmosphere in full swing, Walker and the band kicked in to high-gear delivering raunchy, whisky-drenched versions of “Dublin Crow”, “Day Drunk” and excellent set-closer “Best Thing That You Never Had” with each Widow taking a turn at lead vocals on the 2004 Letters track.
For an encore,Walker took the party to the floor, making his way through the crowd and up on the MOD Club bar to do shots with his guests and then lead them in a call-and-response sing-along from the middle of the floor. No rock ‘n’ roll house party would be complete without a duelling guitar challenge, so Walker and lead guitar player Fran Capitanelli went toe-to-toe with Capitanelli coming out on top by playing to the Toronto crowd with a few riffs by hometown boys Rush.
It’s too bad a super talent like Butch Walker can only draw a few hundred people for a rareTorontogig. This is an artist and performer that must be seen live to truly appreciate his abilities. The joy he exudes while performing is infectious and it’s clear he’s up on the stage for all the right reasons (not for the money, fame or fortune – he makes his living from his day job producing tracks for Pink, Weezer and Katy Perry).
Opening the show were Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, an outstanding duo from Alabama also known as Shovels And Rope. Walker produced their latest self-titled album and the best way to describe their sound would be a redneck White Stripes. Again it’s too bad more folks didn’t get a chance to hear Carry Ann’s incredible vocals and their foot-stopping brand of folk music.