Billy Bob Thornton
The Fabulous Boxmasters
House of Blues
North Myrtle Beach, SC
August 16, 2007
Not only is Billy Bob Thornton my favorite actor, he is now one of my true favorite rock stars.
I really had no idea what to expect. I love all of Billy Bob’s records, and they are usually Americana and country flavored, but I had no idea he and the band would deliver such a balls to the wall rock and roll show. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The band consists of: Billy Bob Thornton - lead vocals; Teddy Andreadis - keyboards, harmonica; JD Andrew - guitars (acoustic & electric) and bass; Mike “Bubba” Bruce - drums; Mike Butler - electric guitar & slide; Brad Davis - guitar (acoustic & electric); an Mike Shipp - guitar & bass.
The Fabulous Boxmasters opened the show, dressed like 1960’s British Invasion mods, and playing like honkytonk rockabillys. Billy Bob dominated center stage, and I swear there were times when the spotlight and his ever present cigarette made him look like a young Frank Sinatra.
The Boxmasters kicked it off with a country fried “Better By The Minute,” and without missing a beat moved into the Michael Nesmith penned (and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded) “Some of Shelly’s Blues.” It was clear immediately that Billy and the band had this Myrtle Beach audience in the palm of their collective hand.
Billy explained from the stage that they were two different band. “We open for ourselves,” he said. “We treat ourselves badly as openers. We turn off a couple of power amps and don’t allow any special lighting.” Funny.
The Fabulous Boxmasters pulled off a hillbilly cover of Mott The Hoople’s “Original Mixed Up Kid” that caught everyone off guard. Mike Shipp thumped a Paul McCartney style bass and Teddy played accordion. It was my kind of band, with pedal steel and accordion.
The show included original Boxmasters tunes from their upcoming album, as well as eclectic covers. “Shit List” was a fun and witty song to be sure, as was “The Last Place They’d Look” and “Build Your Own Prison.”
After a short intermission, the guys returned, decked out in their rock and roll regalia. Billy Bob was all southern rock, and Mike Shipp donned a hippie shirt, shades, and headband, chomping on a cigar and playing the daylights out of a Gibson SG. Brad Davis was sporting a fake tattoo sleeve for the thug look, and the rest of the band were decked out for rock and roll.
The set kicked off in fifth gear with “Emily,” “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” Next came “Hope for Glory” from the new record, Beautiful Door, which Billy dedicated to “all of the innocents dying in the war.”
While the new album is more laid back, Americana style, the band was more full on rock and roll. No complaints from this writer. It was like The Beatles meet Black Oak Arkansas at an Allman Brothers Band concert.
Thornton is a rocker, but he also the kindest and downright sweetest front man I have ever seen, speaking directly to audience members, and at one point carrying on a conversation with a couple who had their child up on their shoulders. Billy told them it made him miss his own daughter Bella.
At one point Billy took a drumstick and was hitting the accents on the drummer’s crash cymbal, giving the people a real show. Then he took the stick and handed it to the child in the audience.
“That Mountain” was a great song, dedicated to the memory of Billy’s good friend Jim “Ernest” Varney. (By the way, both Billy Bob and Jim Varney were managed by Capricorn Records’ Phil Walden for a while.)
When the band left the stage, the crowd went nuts. I remarked to one of the guys that I’d not sees a crowd demand an encore like that since the hey day of 1970’s Southern rock and roll. It was amazing.
The band threw caution to the wind as the encore opened with Teddy pulling off an organ solo reminiscent of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, followed by a smoking lead guitar solo, which led into a blazing hot cover of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “If You Want to Get to Heaven.”
Since today was the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis, Billy Bob called for 30 seconds of silence in memory of Elvis. Then he followed with, “Now scream your asses off for Elvis!” They did.
Billy announced the last song as one written by his late brother, called “Island Avenue.” What a great song. The jam at the end of the song was Led Zeppelin on steroids. Wow.
There’s some kind of weird thing in the entertainment industry whereby people automatically disrespect a famous actor who tries to also be a musician. Well sir, that particular rule or stigma is out the window in the case of Billy Bob Thornton. He was a rocker before he was an actor, and it shows. The show was fantastic, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single nay-sayer in the packed out house. As for this reporter, consider him officially rocked and rolled over. Killer.
-Review & Photos by Michael Buffalo Smith
Read the BLOG about my day with Billy Bob.