Music » Critics' Picks

Butch Walker with Brian Vander Ark

Friday, May 16; Galaxy


No one could say Butch Walker doesn't try. From '80s LA hair-metal band Southgang to Atlanta's white-funk-rock act the Floyds, on through flirting with major-label success in the late '90s with power-pop outfit Marvelous 3 and becoming a songwriter and producer to the stars, Walker has stuck his hand in everything and tried to make the most of it. A consummate professional, Walker has toured the country repeatedly, working up to 250 shows a year with his various projects over the years.

Now Walker's a solo act; his latest incarnation is that of the male pop singer, an American answer to Robbie Williams, and his carefully crafted and produced songs are designed to showcase that side of him. Musically, Walker's songwriting hasn't strayed too far from his Marvelous 3 days, a mélange of Material Issue urgency meeting Cheap Trick panache with a healthy dose of smarminess thrown in for good measure. Though he lacks the sales and popularity to match his superstar persona, it isn't from lack of effort. In fact, it's this very effort that frequently works against him; his music sometimes sounds bloodless and trite, as if he were creating songs from a formula book, The Perfect Pop/Rock Song in Three Easy Steps. Having written his fair share of hit singles, Walker seems as if he's constantly trying to write the next one.

All the façades could be stripped aside on this tour, billed as a solo acoustic show. The presentation of just one man on a stage has the potential to be incredibly revealing or incredibly boring, but Walker has the experience to pull it off. Alone or with a band, Walker knows how to entertain. He has the easy, natural charisma of a rock star and can put on a good show, as long as he doesn't try too hard.

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