Friday, October 14, 2011

My Butch Walker live set wishlist

Tonight, my brother and I will be making our way towards the Magic Bag in Ferndale to see Butch Walker and his band the Black Widows on their latest tour, which is in support of his recently released record, The Spade. I believe this is show number 9 for my brother Andrew, who saw him when he did his "full album residency" in Chicago (alas, those dates for 21+, and I couldn't have gone), but for me, tonight is the sixth time I'll be seeing Butch rock the house (and the third time at this particular venue), and I'm counting the hours until he takes the stage this evening. In honor of my sixth live Butch experience, and, considering that he just dropped his sixth full length solo album, I'm going to offer my wishlist of sorts for the setlist this evening: the song(s) off each record that I most hope he plays tonight.

Note: I didn't include Marvelous 3 material, since I don't ever really expect him to pull any of that stuff out, and if he does, it's just a bonus. That said, "Cigarette Lighter Love Song" is always welcome to a setlist, and nearly anything off of Hey! Album or Readysexgo! would be awesome.

1. Left of Self-Centered (2002) - "My Way"

Self-Centered is the only record that has been left almost completely unrepresented in most of the shows I've seen. From it, I've only heard "Far Away From Close" and the acoustic version of "Diary," which I've never understood, because this record is full of the kind of big rock and power pop songs that could make up a killer live set, almost by themselves. It's hard for me to pick a single track from here, as the more subdued material ("If," "Take Tomorrow") is among my favorite stuff he's done, but I don't think anything would make me cheer louder than hearing the opening "woah-oh" chorus of this song in a live setting, preferably as a set opener (hell, he could even do an updated version of "Rock Vocal Power"). The huge sing along chorus would be a big crowd-pleaser as well, so I can't imagine why he never pulls this one out, but I'm certain most would welcome it.

Runner(s)-up: "Suburbia," who's ridiculous lyrics would be a blast to scream along to with a hundred other Butch fans, or "Sober," either in full band or in it's piano acoustic format, which I missed out on when he toured in 2007.

2. Letters (2004) - "Stateline"

I've been pretty lucky when it comes to Butch shows, considering that Letters is my favorite record of his, and it seems to be his favorite as well, since he routinely plays roughly half of the material on this album, and some of the songs ("Best Thing") are staples that make an appearance in every setlist. That said, the hidden track (and arguable highlight) "Stateline" never gets enough attention. I also missed out on this one during his 2007 tour, but that was a mostly full band arrangement, and if he's going to play it, then he has to play it acoustic, because there's no other format in which this song really soars like it does with just Butch and his acoustic guitar. The live videos I've seen of this from back around the Letters-era are some of the best Butch live videos out there, and I'd love to experience it. 

Runner(s)-up: Though technically a b-side, the full version of "Sunny Day" would be an unforgettable inclusion. And I'll never say no to "Don't Move" or "Joan," though I've seen them both a few times. Also, "Lights Out" needs to be brought back as the "journey into the audience" song during the encore.

3. The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites! (2006) - "Rich People Die Unhappy"

The first time I saw Butch play a live show, it was in support of this all out party of a record, and that live set almost literally set the place on fire (it was well over 100 degrees inside the club). "Rich People" was one of the only songs not to make an appearance on that setlist, but I think that the song, with it's clever lyrics and alt-country texture, could really provide a nice moment somewhere in the middle of a setlist. That song has some of my favorite Butch lyrics, but I feel like it's been somewhat forgotten (this album kind of has in general), and it would be great to see him bring it back.

Runner(s)-up: "This Is The Sweetest Little Song," which could function perfectly as the ballad before he launches into "Best Thing" to close the main set, "Paid to Get Excited," a scorching rocker that I'm pretty sure he'll never play again, or "Dominoes," which I've seen him play once, but was one of the most stunning moments of any live show I've ever seen.

4. Sycamore Meadows (2008) - "Summer Scarves"

Sycamore Meadows is the only Butch album that I've seen all of my favorite songs off of, so this is kind of a "what's left?" pick, even though I really do like this song. "Summer Scarves" has a kind of epic sweep to it that I think could sound really great in a live setting. When he premiered the song in Atlanta a few years ago, the song was in a higher key, so it sounded even more raw and emotional, and I wouldn't mind seeing him do it in that key, though I think the chances of that ever happening are quite slim.

Runner(s)-up: "A Song For the Metalheads," with it's sarcasm drenched lyrics about the music industry (which still ring very true), would a riotously fun number to see live, and could kind of function in the same "Races Cars" from Letters does when he plays that. And I'd love to see "Ships in a Bottle" in it's original acoustic arrangement, which I still think is superior to the album take. And "3 Kids" might be one of the best live songs in his collection, so it's always welcome.

5. I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart (2010) - "Days/Months/Years"

My only problem with the last set of Butch shows I saw was the Butch didn't play enough off of his latest album, and this ridiculously fun, bizarre Johnny Cash-referencing, blues number was the worst exclusion, as this is the kind of song made to be performed live. Since it sort of fits with the spirit of his latest album, I have my fingers crossed that he'll pull it out tonight, but I'm not really holding my breath: this is destined to become a deep cut.

Runner(s)-up: My favorite track from the record, "Don't You Think Someone Should Take You Home," sounded gorgeous on the live bootleg I heard from one of his full album residencies, and I think could be truly stunning, more subdued moment in a Butch set, especially with aid from Chris Unck's lap steel guitar. "Be Good Until Then" could function similarly.

6. The Spade (2011) - "Bullet Belt"

I said in my review of this record that this is the kind of song that's made to "set fire to a small club," and I sand by what I said, as this might be the most obvious live showstopper he's ever written. Somewhere near the end of the main set (or closing the encore) would be ideal, but as long as I get to see Butch and the Black Widows tear this song apart tonight, I'll be a happy man.

Runner(s)-up: I'd love to see just about anything from this record, but the one two punch of "Dublin Crow" and "Closest Thing To You I'm Gonna Find" would make for a dynamite little folk section, and I'm pretty sure "Suckerpunch" would be an absolute riot live.

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