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Music Review: Butch Walker and the Black Widows at Webster Hall (New York), May 20 2010

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Butch Walker has assimilated a lot of mojo over a couple of decades playing, writing, and producing all sorts of music, and he's lasered it all into his fine new CD, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, recorded as Butch Walker and the Black Widows. He and the excellent band showcased songs from the new disc in a thrilling 90-minute show at Webster Hall last night, during which the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist showed off his mastery not only of his own music but of the craft of being a rock star.

Leading singalongs, rave-ups, improvisations, charging into the audience, joking about New Jersey fans vs. New York City fans, he barreled through a set of punchy, catchy songs laced with hooks, funny lyrics ("She Likes Hair Bands"), rock anthems ("The Weight of Her"), sunny 60's funk ("Ponce De Leon Ave"), self-awareness ("Pretty Melody"), a sense of history (a Hall and Oates cover), playful stage antics, influences from everything from country to Motown to teen pop to metal, and nearly Springsteen-esque energy.

Walker's a consummate singer and instrumentalist, switching from electric and acoustic guitar to mandolin to banjolin from song to song, and moving effortlessly from husky baritone to strong falsetto along with his usual soaring tenor. His band matched him in skill and energy, all taking turns on lead vocals (how many bandleaders give their backing musicians a chance like that?) on one song, dueting on guitar solos, keeping the room throbbing whether it was a lighthearted verse or a heavy-guitar chorus.


Webster Hall's surprisingly good sound, funky, psychedelic lighting, and huge mirror ball completed the picture of everything you want in a rock show. I wasn't sure who all the fans were: their ages varied, but they were mostly kids way too young to know Walker from his heavy metal days. Maybe some came just because of his recent cover of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me." Whatever. Everyone got a swift kick of rock and roll, just what we needed.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • Lauren

    Did you actually go to the show? He didn’t play “The Weight Of Her”

  • Jon Sobel

    No? I took notes at the show and was pretty sure I heard it.

  • Josh

    Sorry sir, but “The Weight Of Her” wasn’t played…it’s o.k. don’t take it personally, any press for Butch is cool, hell you could have said he played half the Hannah Montana catalog and it would be cool.

  • Jon Sobel

    Here’s what probably happened: on a contact high while taking my notes (Butch commented on the pot smoke several times and he wasn’t imagining it), I described the songs to myself, then went home and compared my notes to the recordings to make sure I knew which song was which. Seems I got one wrong. Great show regardless!

  • Frank Grimaldi

    Hey Guys,
    I took notes too. Here’s the setlist:

    1. Cigarette Lighter Love Song
    2. Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You
    3. Closer To The Truth and Further From The Sky
    4. Uncomfortably Numb
    5. Pretty Melody
    6. Laid by James Intro/The Taste Of Red
    7 Here Comes The Heartache
    8. Trash Day
    9. Ladies & Gentlemen, The Let’s Go Out Tonites
    10.Too Famous to Get Dressed
    11.She Likes Hair Bands/(Adlib song on spot as an intro)
    12.Best Thing You Never Had
    13.The Kids In Brooklyn
    14.Hot Girls In Good Moods
    15.Rich Girl (Hall & Oats Cover)
    16.Ponce De Leon Ave.

    I’m in the middle of writing about the show. Can anyone tell me who Butch referred to as “Dr” playing on Steel pedal guitar behind the keyboard setup? (I’m not referring to Chris Unck).

  • Sal

    Possibly the best rock show that I have seen in the past 10 years, almost Springsteen like in someways. Butch is REALLY something special. Sound and light were exceptional also. Jon’s review is dead on with the exception of the song confusion.