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Live Review: John Butler Trio, Tinpan Orange

8 February 2016 | 4:40 pm | Annelise Ball

"One princess pre-schooler twirls around joyfully during 'Pickapart', while another little lady tries super hard to jump to the beat."

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The only thing better than the zoo is a great gig at the zoo. Punters sitting in the hot sun enjoy the specific greatness of Tinpan Orange who begin with the sweet Like Snow. Violinist Alex Burkoy has just the right amount of upturned twist on his moustache to make him look like a mad genius as he fiddles away magically accompanying lead singer Emily Lubitz's rich vocals. Birdy, an ode to Facebook-induced FOMO, meanders on wistfully while big bro Jesse Lubitz covers the kick drum, acoustic guitar and harmonies — all at once, no sweat. New single Rich Man marks the band's return (to recording songs) after an extended period off. "He's had a kid," says Emily, pointing to her brother. "I've had two and Alex, well, we don't know how many he's had — it's a mystery." Brushing off the cheeky burn, Burkoy then smashes out the most feverish violin solo Melbourne Zoo is ever likely to see.

The sun mercifully goes down as John Butler Trio begin with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land. Cold Wind then blasts frenetic rock onto the lazy crowd still lolling around on their picnic blankets. Butler enjoys an anti-government rant before Better Than, which comes complete with rollicking banjo and bassist Byron Luiters rocking the huge double bass. Watching the under-five punters getting in the zone proves to be another sweet feature of Zoo Twilights. One princess pre-schooler twirls around joyfully during Pickapart, while another little lady tries super hard to jump to the beat. Butler explains his feelings about being an Australian-American-English-Irish mongrel who's way too ADD to learn Celtic folk songs, so he wrote his own, namely the long and beautiful instrumental Ocean. Punters lie back on their rugs, gazing at the dusky sky, chilling out deep as Butler sits alone on stage looping, plucking and stomping. Bluesy track Blame It On Me gets one ten-year-old punter doing sick air guitar moves, unabashed; the solid rock stance and shoulder pops showing serious promise. Zebra gets happy punters up off the grass to dance and sing along with the familiar "na-na-nanana" riff. 

The band oblige the now fully rocking crowd with encore Funky Tonight and the gig ends just in time to let the animals get some sleep. Let's hope all the lions, tigers and bears loved the gig just as much as the humans, though.