John Butler Trio Tear Up Taronga


Photos by Josh Groom

It may read like a stupid tautology, but live music is all about the experience. Sure, streaming a record on Spotify is easy, cheap and convenient, but it doesn’t hold a patch on hearing the album performed live in front of a passionate crowd.

Unfortunately, live experience can often be lacking. And without wanting to sound like an old geezer, the unrelenting onslaught of backing tracks and punters watching entire shows through their tiny phone screens can greatly reduce the live experience. Gigs of this sort often leave me wondering, ‘why did I pay an extra $100 for this’?

I’m happy to report that the John Butler Trio at Taronga Zoo brought the experience and proved just how special live music can and should be. Like the magical Opera House Forecourt, the setup at Taronga offered incredible views of Sydney’s bridge, harbour and city whilst being nestled in a beautiful natural setting. Especially when the sun began to set, the gig felt like an Instagrammer’s wet dream.

Most importantly, the John Butler Trio were the perfect band for this venue. Whilst the trio consistently release solid studio albums, they impress most in a live setting. It’s one of my only issues with the band: that their albums can often feel just like a tease – a bunch of songs to memorise for when John next rolls into town.

Indeed, all the songs performed were given new life in a live setting. Fast and heavier cuts like ‘Livin’ in the City’ and ‘Blame It On Me’ from latest album Flesh and Blood were turned up a notch with the addition of screaming guitar solos. Likewise, older hits like ‘Funky Tonight’, ‘Better Than’ and ‘Pickapart’ were reinvigorated by bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Grant Gerathy who traded solos between themselves. A particular highlight of the night were Byron’s forays into slap bass which saw even the dorkiest dancers (guilty) attempting our funkiest, swaggiest moves.

A solo acoustic performance of sweeping instrumental piece ‘Ocean’ provided the evening’s most beautiful and surreal moments, as John’s emotive guitar perfectly complemented the picturesque Taronga setting.


The only real fault of the evening was the length of the performance. Although 90 minutes would usually feel like a complete set, the trio’s standard two hour slot left the crowd feeling a tad disappointed. John did announce to the crowd that this was out of his control, which left punters wondering if this was due to some sort of noise restriction ruling which has allegedly plagued other gigs at the Opera House Forecourt.

Luckily, this meant that the trio did pack an incredible amount of energy into all the songs they performed. So much so that I quickly abandoned my picnic rug, sacrificing my cheese and biscuits, in order to join the rapidly growing crowd in front of the stage.

The experience of seeing impassioned musicians jamming out to a receptive audience at a breathtaking venue really was incredible and unique, and a testament to the true magic of live music done right.

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About Mark Royters

Many years ago I was given an Arctic Monkeys EP. Everything changed from that moment onwards. I'm a Sydney-based music writer, reviewer and interviewer.

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About John Butler

John Butler is many things to many people. To John’s family he is a much loved husband, father, brother, and son. To his ever growing fan base it is purely about the musical journey, the groove of the Trio, the soul of the guitar and the honesty and integrity of John’s lyrics. To emerging independent

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