Butch Walker, "Leavin’ the Game on Luckie Street"

St. Patrick’s Day, while most were excited to go out and get drunk of green beer of questionable quality, I had other things on my mind… Leavin’ The Game on Luckie Street, the Butch Walker DVD filmed at The Tabernacle on April 20, 2007, a show I was front and center for (literally), had landed in my mailbox. It has been nearly six months since I’ve seen Butch play and I’m in the throws of withdrawal. So a good DVD experience was more than a little needed.

Any Butch Walker album or DVD is best appreciated, if not added too, with the company of other fans. My first screening was a private one, however. My friends were all unavailable, and I am not blessed with the patience required to wait for them. All the better to rock out like a total idiot and play my own game of “Where’s Waldo?,” spotting myself and the friends that dotted the first three or so rows.

I hunkered down on the couch, curtains closed and cell phone off, with two cats looking on suspiciously. I couldn’t help but sing along to every word. The near nonstop listening to the live album (released on Valentine’s Day) had paid off. I couldn’t help but do my own little Butch impression as I mimicked his actions and guitar playing.

Before I go much farther, I must make a confession. Everyone has that one artist that they have an emotional, gut reaction to. For me, it’s Butch. His shows always have an electricity in the air and there are moments when if feel almost like a church service filled with only the most devout of followers, all of whom, are dear friends.

Am I sounding a bit overwrought? Sappy? Cult member like?

Guess, what. I’m okay with it. You have been warned. Moving on…

I knew going in that no DVD is capable of really capturing the feel of any live performance, especially not someone as known for his showmanship as Butch. This DVD actually managed to come the closest of any live footage, whether Live at Budokan or countless hours of fan-made clips I’ve amassed, to capturing what it’s like to be in the audience. To be quite honest, Live at Budokan left me wanting, so I was more that a bit leery of this DVD.

This running time clocks in at more than two hours with 25 songs/medleys spanning the Butch Walker spectrum of everything from rock anthems to quiet ballads. In addition to originals there are covers of “Born to Run” and “Laid,” along with smatterings of other songs layered on top of originals.

Anyone who has seen Butch, I’ll say at least twice, knows there are certain things that he does at practically every show. They are expected and if he leaves them out we can’t help but feel a bit slighted. Practically every one of these fan favorites make it into the DVD; the choir on “Alicia Amnesia,” the sing-along on “Canyons,” his handing off the job of lead vocals to the audience on at least one song, taking a phone from a fan during “Best Thing You Never Had” to yell at the person on the other end and top it off by wailing on the guitar to the point of ripping out strings during the heart wrenching outro.

Despite the filmmaker’s success at getting all the fan favorites, as well as featuring my friends and I fairly prominently, I do have my complaints.

First, there is the heavy-handed use of layered images and black and white effects that come out of nowhere. For the most part it just takes away from the performance. In the layering the two images never line up quite right so it just looks odd. The one time this works is when guitarist Jamie Arentzen is layered on top of himself for a guitar solo. The black and white leaves you looking at the screen wondering of it really is black and white or just a weird effect of the lights.

There are also more than a few instances of slow motion immediately followed by high speed. It works in very few places, like the climax of “Alicia Amnesia”, but mostly just looks overdone.

The songs were also edited a little to close together. I would have liked more of a gap to recover from one song before getting into another. I also seem to remember more stage banter than appears, though I could be mistaken. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Butch’s reprimanding of the audience for talking during “Joan,” a ballad about domestic violence, did make the cut.

The filmmakers also have an unfortunate taste for lots of rapid cuts. I know this is effect of MTV on the world, but there is a point where you are taking away from the subject more that you’re adding to it.

The highlight of the whole show are in the last 5 songs; “Best Thing You Never Had,” “Hot Girls in a Good Mood,” “Lights Out,” and “Canyons” (I’m excluding “Born to Run,” I really don’t like Springsteen and something about the performance sidetracked the show as a whole. I felt that way at the show, and it is the same on the DVD.). These are the songs I was out of my seat most for. These are among my favorite songs, live or album versions, and they also fell at the most spirited and enthusiastic part of the show.

“Lights Out” is a regular part of the encore, with demanding that the crowd full out dance for a full 15 seconds at the beginning of the song. This too, is something that we’ve grown to expect at every show. He jumps in the crowd and does his best white boy dance with us and sings almost the entire song in the audience with us. This show was extra special; with opening band Rocket taking to the stage for the quintessential silly girl dancing.

Despite my difference of opinions with the filmmakers, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Leavin’ the Game on Luckie Street. It put a smile on my face and had me singing along. I gave me the butterflies that comes with knowing I was there and that I’m even on film. And yes, I will be arranging a screening with a few of the friends from the show. And besides, how many people get to say that there’s a DVD for sale of them partaking in a night of rock ‘n’ roll, though they are still a bit fuzzy on the details… well, except the stars of Girls Gone Wild?

Note: If you want to see your fair author on screen check out the beginning of “Taste of Red” and Butch’s dive into the crowd for “Lights Out”. I’m the blond in the Lisa Loeb glasses.

Butch Walker: website | myspace



One Response

  1. I got my DVD on St. Patty’s, but have not brought myself to watch it yet. I haven’t been in the mood to watch it alone, and I was still afraid it wouldn’t capture the magic of April 20. But, as always, you have enlightened me, Molly, and even though I am working double this weekend, I will try to watch it Sunday night.

    (I hope some footage of me getting trampled when Butch came out into the audience is on there. I want my fighting for my life documented! And I will OF COURSE be looking for you and Rosie! :o)

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