The Jon Butcher Axis
April 26, 2014
I was psyched to find out about the Jon Butcher Axis show at the Larcom Theater this past Saturday, since I had missed the one a few weeks earlier at the Hampton Beach Casino. The show was amazing, the setlist was full, and Jon Butcher delivered, continuing his celebration of Hendrix’s music, along with some of his own.
Grammy-nominated Jon Butcher has been a fixture of the Boston music scene for decades and his records have been sold around the world. Not wanting to waste a moment, he has kept extremely busy. In addition to touring, performing, writing music for himself, and producing other musicians’ work, Butcher writes scores for tv, film, and computer games with his company Electric Factory Music.
The show at the Larcom was sold-out, packed solid. The night started with just the minimal amount of light on stage and the soft tones from a recording of Butcher playing the Star-Spangled Banner trickling in. When that ended, the sound of the drum knocking began, the lights came on suddenly, and the band lit into “Them Changes.” Butcher called out, “Larcom Theater how ya doing” and the crowd eagerly yelled back. Reuniting with his original bassist Chris Martin and drummer John Anthony, along with Sandy MacDonald on keyboard, Butcher was a strong lead. They all played off each other, obviously having fun, and kept the tunes going practically non-stop. The audience lapped it up!
There were many solos throughout the night. Martin began his, telling the audience that when he had asked Butcher what he should do for his solo, he said “make it sound like whales humping.” The audience laughed, but immediately got it as he proceeded to create volume swells on the bass. The sounds that came out were like the underwater tones of whale calls. Someone commented to me that he had never heard anything like it before, said he felt the tones traveling throughout his body.
After the John Butcher song, “Wishes,” came Anthony’s drum solo. With drums crashing and symbols glistening in the yellow lights from above, he was a whirlwind of sight and sound! He threw the drumsticks aside at one point to attack the drums with his hands. Then everything was a blur: he seemed to be moving faster now than with the sticks.
Halfway through the show, Butcher announced, “It’s time for some blues!” There were more hoots and hollers as he started to play “Red House.” The soulful sounds of the blues filled the room. The song was slow but it got the temperature rising, you couldn’t help but sway to the tunes.
Butcher encouraged the audience throughout the night and they yelled back at every chance, eager to play. The theater was like a playground, all the kids wanting to join the game. Butcher seemed just as excited: he really did want to hear his audience, pausing at times to listen as everyone screamed the lyrics to these favorite songs. At the very end, he welcomed everyone to get up off their seats. Many got up and went right to the stage; everyone was dancing and singing along.
This night felt really special. We all “own” some Hendrix songs, not just on tape or CD, but also in our soul. Many weren’t lucky enough to have seen him onstage, but we all have memories for special songs, for example, where you were in your life when you first heard, “Foxy Lady” or “Purple Haze.” Jon Butcher and the band connected with everyone, not just when they were onstage playing the songs we all love, but also after the show. The band came to the lobby soon after the performance for a Meet and Greet. The space was crowded with people waiting for CDs, t-shirts, and autographs. Everyone there got what they were looking for and more. Butcher didn’t just sign autographs, he hung out talking with everyone and many stories were shared. Now we’re all looking forward to the next time they come back!
Spanish Castle Magic
The Wind Cries Mary
Like a Rolling Stone
Once Upon a Time
Wishes (Jon Butcher)
Ocean of Emotion
Rocky Moutain Way (Joe Walsh)
Running and Hiding