Marvelous 3 reunited for a limited run of five shows, with the final two taking place at Chicago’s House of Blues.
In the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral at Gareth’s funeral, Matthew, when thinking about how he’ll remember Gareth, says “Unfortunately, there I don’t have words. Perhaps you will forgive me if I turn from my own feelings to the words of another splendid bugger” before quoting a WH Auden poem. For the Marvelous 3 show we witnessed at the House of Blues in Chicago, maybe you will allow us the same indulgence (with a quote from a different splendid bugger – Stephen King). In his book The Body, which was adapted into the classic movie Stand By Me, the writer laments: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” It’s the most fitting quote we could think of to sum up watching these three friends who have played music together since they were teenagers in Georgia (ok – not quite 12 as in the quote but you get the idea).
From the moment they stepped onto the stage, the bond between Butch Walker, Jayce Fincher, and Doug “Slug” Mitchell was clear to see. It’s a bond forged through the experiences they had in their formative years. Playing in bands together, tasting success with Marvelous 3, touring the US and beyond, standing up to a disinterested label, and ultimately parting ways.
While their paths diverged post-Marvelous 3, Walker, Fincher, and Mitchell remained best friends and ultimately came back together as a band to record new music in the form of IV, their fourth and final album. During an interview on the band’s comeback on Atlanta station 99X, Butch Walker mentioned that the songs for IV had been written for some time as he’d been regularly filing songs and ideas away as potential Marvelous 3 material. The songs Butch has written over the course of his career, both for himself and other artists, are infused with honest reflection, vulnerability, social commentary, and humor. IV contains many of those elements and is somewhat of a nostalgic look back from the perspective of a writer who, whilst he has some additional miles on the clock compared to the 20-odd-year-old who wrote the songs for Math and Other Problems, is still far from finishing his journey. From a musical perspective, it’s simply a fantastic rock album, full of great hooks and infused with the energy of three guys who were clearly delighted to be back in a studio in each others’ company.
Following the recording of the album, a plan to play one night at the Tabernacle in Atlanta ultimately became a three-night stand in Atlanta and two nights at the House of Blues in Chicago.
For the final show on Friday, the room was packed to capacity well prior to the lights going down. Looking around, it was noticeable how many people were embracing each other, talking about the last time they saw the band or each other. Based on Loud Hailer’s previous Butch Walker live experiences, there was no doubt in our mind that Friday’s show was going to be a full-throttle high-energy affair but what could not have been predicted was the genuine feeling of love and community that these three musicians would generate in the room.
As the band wandered onto the stage and launched into “You’re So Yesterday,” we had liftoff. The audience erupted in joy and it was a feeling that remained through the entirety of the performance. The first half of the setlist drew exclusively from Hey! Album and Ready Sex Go and it was a non-stop party with highlights including “Grant Park” and “Indie Queen.” Jayce and Slug took a well-deserved break for song ten which was a beautiful version of “Let Me Go” performed by Butch and Holden Fincher. Holden is the son of Jayce and has slotted seamlessly into the band for this run of shows, providing great guitar and backing vocals throughout the night.
Butch took a number of chances to chat with the audience throughout the night, telling stories and reminiscing about experiences the friends had shared in their younger days. As the night rolled on, there was a high-energy double hit from IV in the form of “My Old School Metal Heart” and “If We’re On Fire (Let It Burn)” with “Radio Tokyo” and “Cigarette Lighter Love Song” leading into the inevitable encore “Freak of the Week” as confetti and balloons fell from the ceiling. The band then got the whole audience involved for the last song of the night, a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Always Something There to Remind Me,” with each member taking turns to conduct their part of the audience. Everyone in the room was fully engaged, wanting to be a part of what was going on and keep the show going for just a few minutes more. Ultimately though, the night had to come to an end and the band, now adorned in personalized Blackhawks jerseys that they donned for the encore, embraced in a huddle on stage for some time before finally saying goodnight.
As you would expect, the band was pretty much flawless throughout, Jayce and Slug locked in and provided a rock-solid rhythm section with Holden taking care of rhythm guitar. This allowed Butch to sprinkle his fairy dust on top, which he did expertly, using every inch of the stage and wringing every last note out of his guitar and his voice. However, as the lights came up and people headed for the doors, the thing that will stick with everyone in the House of Blues that night is probably not musical proficiency, but that intangible “something” we all experienced, created by the love between those three best friends on stage. Three friends performing the music they created together while images of their younger selves and their fans were projected behind them. Three friends who, once the music had started, became indistinguishable from those younger images and created an energy that made everyone in that room feel like their younger selves.
It made for a night that, we’re absolutely sure, will live long in the memories of all of us that were there.
We would suggest that you keep an eye on the Marvelous 3 website as, you never know, they might decide to do a more extensive tour and, if they do, it’s a show you can really not afford to miss!WORDS BY: Phil Walton
PHOTOS BY: Kirstine Walton