Bernard Butler

Bernard Butler

with Emm Gryner

Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta • August 17th 1998

I got to the show expecting to see Emm Gryner, but I missed her… oh well, maybe next time. Some inane 99X guy got onstage to announce a free trip to London. Fortunately, he did not tarry. He said Butler would be up soon. Two beers later, Butler takes the stage with a “hello.” Unassuming and charming best describes Butler’s performance. The venue had the air of an English Pub. Butler seemed genuinely at home as he played through stripped down versions of songs from his People Move On CD. He himself is moving on, from his days with the English pop sensation Suede. At times, his performance brought images of a George Harrison caricature or a happy Nick Drake. The full house was enamored by this Brit. At one point, he apologized for the “bastards talking about their wash.” The crowd appropriately shushed these bastards at the beginning of the next song.

Commenting on the CNN goings on with Lewinsky and Clinton’s peepee is how he introduced his song “Autograph.” CNN was on the TV in the bar’s corner. He said “You can watch me or you can watch the TV… It’s the same difference.” His humble demeanor was so refreshing. I had prepared myself for an English snot but instead encountered a nearly-shy articulate troubadour.

Even the meatheads sitting at a front table talking to their hair product girlfriends during the entire set did not throw Butler. I thought it would have been appropriate for him to bean the main meathead over the head with his 12-string, but he didn’t. In my head, I did. He had just got the 12-string back from a Liverpuddlian who had nicked it. He warned the audience to beware in Liverpool. “Enjoy the Beatles but beware of Liverpuddlians!”

At a climactic point in the show, Butler showcased a song he had just written. He admitted he had no title for it yet. He enthusiastically wrung out every chord of this gleaming song. Nothing broke Butler’s stride, not even a broken string during the complex “Autograph.” As soon as he finished one song, his tech would switch out his guitar, and he would launch into the next one. He soon bid goodnight, but the audience would not let him go. He came back out and played the Lennonesque “Woman I Know,” which still rang in my ears as he played the next song and I wandered out of the building. Whether Butler follows the musical path of Nick Drake or George Harrison, music lovers have someone to look forward to for years to come.

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