Will Butler is well-known for his antics on stage as a member of Arcade Fire. Having released his first solo effort earlier this year, he made his first appearance in Los Angeles from underneath older brother Win Butler’s shadow at the Troubadour last night. That energy was there in spades.
I had just seen Butler perform the previous weekend at Sasquatch! Music Festival, his set kicking things off at 1 PM on the main stage on Saturday. Though it sounded rather good with The Gorge directly behind him and his touring band, it sounded that much better in the more intimate Hollywood venue.
While Arcade Fire is known for being sometimes a bit too serious, Will Butler’s side project has a lot more fun to it. His first release Policy totals eight songs and 28 minutes, not nearly enough to fill a full set. To compensate, Butler played a variety of songs he had written as a project for The Guardian, where he wrote a song a day. One of the highlights early in the set was one such song, “Madonna Can’t Save Me Now,” which took on new life in the live setting.
Though he plays all the instruments on his recordings, Butler is a four-piece band for his live shows. Last night at The Troubadour, Butler and company wore matching sweaters with their first names emblazoned on the front. Playing various keyboards and synthesizers while also serving as backup, vocals are Sara Dobbs and Julie Shore [Butler’s sister-in-law] with Miles Arntzen on percussion and backup vocals. They all do a damn good job of matching Butler’s charisma without stealing the show, as well as giving depth to some of Butler’s more catchy choruses.
Butler himself alternated from playing keys to playing electric guitar to playing acoustic guitar. On “Anna,” Butler’s vocals were reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis, eccentric and rangy. At other times, he sounded a bit Neil Young-ish, if Neil Young ever fronted a band that dripped in synth.
Butler rarely stopped between songs, often jumping immediately into the next except to introduce his band at one point and mention how he hadn’t played the Troubadour in a decade, when Arcade Fire played there. Though his famous band has long outgrown venues of that size, Butler on his own might not be that far behind doing the same. The show was sold-out and even those who probably knew little other than his famous affiliation left the venue impressed by his live chops.
Though Win Butler is currently the star of the show, it would be no surprise to me if younger brother Will spins a better side gig and goes on to enjoy loads of success on his own.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Want more photos of Will Butler at The Troubadour? Check out the photo gallery below!