Butch Walker: Live at Budokan (Fran Strine, 2005)
You know what? Everyone and their mothers has already told you that the acoustic set in Atlanta (which ended up being the source for the This Is Me…Justified and Stripped album) is better than the Budokan set, and I’m not going to be the voice of dissent on this one; the Atlanta gig is just plain better. Walker plays the rock star very, very well, as we’ve found out over the past quarter-century, but when he takes off the shades and sits down at the piano in a small club playing for the same people who’ve been coming to see him since the SouthGang days (and hell, probably even before that), obviously you’re going to get a less scripted, more honest performance than you would opening for Avril Lavigne (and who thought up that pairing?) at a venue where every kid who grew up in the seventies dreamed of playing. Live at Budokan? You’re makin’ bank like Cheap Trick, baby. (That perception did change, thankfully, in the eighties; both Motörhead and Big Black releasing albums recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon made that the destination of choice until, well, 2005.) A hole-in-the-wall in Atlanta? You’re home.
This is not to say the Budokan set, and the behind-the-scenes footage intercut with it, isn’t good as well. You really can’t go wrong with Butch Walker live, and I found this disc enjoyable from beginning to end; I imagine most Walker fans would. And if you haven’t yet discovered the magic, this is as good a place as any to start. *** ½