The Rapidian

John Butler Trio fans jump onstage during memorable concert

At least five members of the audience jumped onstage during the encore of John Butler Trio performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Highlights from the show included classic jam "Ocean" and an end of the world dance party.
John Butler performs

John Butler performs /Ryan Yuenger

/Ryan Yuenger

/Ryan Yuenger

From busking on the streets of Fremantle, Australia to performing a sold out shows with John Butler Trio, John Butler’s diverse and intricate guitar playing has captivated crowds all over the world, including his most recent stop at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

Anyone within view of Butler can't help but stare at his whirlwind of acrylic fingernails as they pick his signature eleven string Maton guitar. Deftly balancing folk, bluegrass, reggae, Celtic and Indian influences with infectious backing rhythms and highly accessible lyrics, John Butler Trio whips the crowd up into a raucus frenzy seldom seen among the sculptures at Meijer Gardens. 

During the first song of the encore, a solo ballad called “Losing You,” Butler’s playing inspires one member of the audience to hop over the small flowerbed that separates the stage from the crowd and bow down before Butler. This likely drunken buffoonery roused a huge cheer from the crowd, and as soon as this man was kicked off the stage by security, a woman hopped on stage and proceeds to imitate his behavior.

Butler stops the song after the second interruption to announce that he was indeed not a prophetic Indian statue, so he wouldn't need to be bowed at. Despite having to stop the song midway, Butler plays it very cool, finishing the final verse like nothing happened. 

That nothing was only just the beginning.

During the rest of the encore, at least five more people jump on stage, either pumping their fist in victory or, in one case, running up to Butler and dancing a jig right next to him. Butler seemed pleasantly surprised by the newfound stage activity, and ended up participating in the jig until security removed the intruding man from the stage.

During the final song in the encore, "Funky Tonight,"the band incited a full on dance party the likes of which i have never seen at Meijer Gardens. Butler told the fans to dance like it was the last night on earth, and many did, kicking and flailing and clapping their limbs to a severely groovy bluegrass breakdown in the song. 

Butler’s raw talent is undeniable, and he clearly stands above the rest of the trio. Easily the musical highlight of the night was “Ocean,” a classic song featuring Butler on the 11-string that included a brief intro for those like me who had never experienced the magic of John Butler.

“This song has followed me around, or I’ve followed it around, I don’t know exactly how it works,” Butler explains. “This song is a good friend of mine, and if I had to convey how I felt about everything, about everything I could possibly imagine, to you, I probably wouldn’t use words. I would probably just play you this song.”

The piece opens with a smooth wave of picking on the 11-string, immediately capturing the serenity of the ocean. Butler continues the flurry of his acrylic nails on the strings, while adding a percussive element by hitting the base of his guitar. 

Out of respect for Butler, I will not use words to describe the beauty of this song. That song, along with the rest of the awe-inspiring magic that comes from his fingers, is something that needs to be heard and seen to be fully appreciated.

Another fantastic installment of the Summer Concert Series at Meijer Gardens.

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