The Union of Souls tour: John Butler, The Waifs and Claire Bowditch @ The Enmore (07/02/2008)

The Union Of Soul Tour traipsing across Australia at the moment is a clear sign that live music is not on life support in this land of ours. Claire Bowditch, The Waifs, and John Butler have linked together and produced a presentation that displays their talents alone and together throughout the evening. At The Enmore Theatre, this past Thursday (7th February) the production was stripped back to a more acoustic feel with no Trio with John Butler and a folk festival feel to the show.

Arriving to a packed Enmore on a very rainy night (Rain. Wiill it EVER stop?) to Claire Bowditch and The Waifs finishing a number, I was disappointed to have missed the very talented Claire. I have to mention her beautiful floral dress because my wife turned to me and said with a laugh, “Bitch, that should be my dress!”

The Waifs do blend some beautiful harmonies and we were treated to Vikki and Donna blending it many times throughout the hour they were on the stage. The latest album Sun Dirt Water was given a pretty good outing and many of the songs and feel of the set really took me back to gigs I saw in the early 70’s by many country rock artists.

That is a compliment, because I felt they had a relaxed feel playing the music and the songs definitely had more of an American Country feel then previous compositions by The Waifs. Check out the guitar on Goodbye to see what I am talking about.

I perceived that there was a distance between the band, although Donna did fix Vikki’s guitar in a loving manner when the roadie did not get out in time. Vikki Simpson was very animated when singing and playing her harmonica and her vocals seemed to have taken on a richer flavour then I recall. Vikki was a commanding presence this evening, and my belief is it won’t be very long until we see a solo effort by her. I think that is my first musical prediction of 2008, for what it’s worth…

Turning out for From Little Things Big Things Grow (Carmody/Kelly) were Claire Bowditch and John Butler and the audience of course added their vocal strength to a classic piece of songwriting. After seeing Missy Higgins really take a hold of this song at the Kev Carmody tribute gig recently, it was a nice comparison to hear these three women and John take it somewhere else.

John Butler without the Trio is still a special evening, but the promoters should have taken that into consideration with the way The Enmore was set up on this evening. This was a gig to sit and listen to and let the music sweep over your senses. Of course, with his band, there is very little sitting at a JBT gig. Alas, it’s all about getting more people in to hear the music and that is what we want to see happen, even if ambient noise and talking sometime interrupt the clarity of the song.

With John changing guitars or banjos on almost every song, the set seemed to fly by. Joined by Bobby Singh on tabla for Treat Your Mama and a new song added some extra brilliance to the numbers. Bobby has an amazing flair and tone to his playing. I really would have appreciated him on stage throughout the night adding some percussive ingredients instead of some of the off time clapping that seems to happen at every Butler gig.

John shared the stage with the other artists for Groovin’ Slowly, which brought a smile to most at hand. He also gave us a lengthy story about how he came to receive the family dobro and how, prior to playing us his version of Danny Boy, his reason for having learnt it. This simply was to play it for his grandmother before she was no longer there to hear it. Touching….

Ocean, the song that John stated got him off his –  “art grant’, was spectacular. It filled the room and anyone within earshot knows that this gentleman is one of our greatest guitar players and musical souls.

John has such a sweet energy rolling off of him as he hugged everyone who came within hugging range. John treated us to another new song, Wrong Way Down A One Way Road, which he claimed was the second time he had played it in front of anyone. He told the crowd to just cheer him on if he made any mistakes, not that we would know anyhow.

Closing the night with a fairly quick Funky Tonight, the show ended and rolled on to the next destination on this fairly short union of musicians. Many of these gigs have been sold out , but if you can, try and find a spare ticket and let it flow.