Tré Burt brings powerful lyrics and pays homage to John Prine at GR’s Listening Room
By Matt Marn
California singer-guitarist Tré Burt brought powerful words and music to the Listening Room stage on Friday — as well as a beautiful tribute to his songwriting hero, John Prine.
The Grand Rapids stop on Burt’s “Sweet Misery Tour” promotes his 2021 album “You, Yeah, You” on Oh Boy Records, the label started by the legendary Prine. So one day after the two-year anniversary of Prine’s passing, Burt dedicated much of his set to covering Prine’s songs, and sharing dear memories he had of the man who helped change his life.
“He gave me family,” Burt told fans. “I never had a coherent family, until I met him … and he gave me his.”
The concert also featured a special guest — Burt’s friend, and fellow Sacramento native, Joules Satyr (Sea of Bees) — who opened the show with an acoustic set that earned plenty of cheers and support of its own, warming up the Listening Room audience before Burt took the stage.
Once Burt did, he began to play a potent blend of songs from “You, Yeah, You,” as well as deeper cuts from previous releases. He even included a less frequently performed tune, “Real You,” at the request of a fan.
Burt shared several memories of Prine as the evening went on, including the time when the record label surprised Burt with an opportunity to perform in front of his hero.
“Of course, they didn’t tell me they were going to do this at the show,” he said. “Because then, I wouldn’t have even had the courage to go up and play at all!”
The songs that Burt performed, from his originals to Prine covers, blended together effortlessly, exuding messages to feel, to think, and even to act, to make the world a better place.
“Some songs feel weird to write,” Burt said onstage of one such song, “By the Jasmine,” about a chance encounter gone tragically wrong. “Sometimes because songs aren’t just songs… They are true.”
Burt played several Prine classics, including “Rocky Mountain Time,” “Sour Grapes,” and “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow).” He also performed a song from his album, “Dixie Red,” which he specifically wrote to honor Prine. Even in between songs during the show, he stops to note Prine’s compelling, healing and calming lyrics.
“The beauty of Prine, you just can’t help but get lost in the lyrics,” he said.
This writer agrees wholeheartedly: My parents have loved and adored Prine for decades, and I grew up hearing – even singing along with – the icon’s lyrics before I even understood half of them, let alone how powerful they truly were.
While I never got to see Prine in concert, Burt speaks the same truth. He carries on the same legacy of speaking and playing from the heart and from the soul. Friday’s show was a tribute to Prine’s spirit, heart and legacy.
My parents weren’t able to attend the show Friday, but their legacy — and the continuation of their spirit and what the music means to them — sat front row center.
Read more about Burt in this Local Spins interview: California indie-folkster Tré Burt channels demons and struggles for inspiring music
PHOTO GALLERY: Tré Burt, Joules Satyr at Listening Room
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek