The Boxmasters have been a working band intermittently since 2007. Billy Bob Thornton is the lead singer and writer of the majority of their music, and while the band was initially more focused on country or hillbilly music, things have changed. In recent years, their creativity is more honed to a rockabilly sound that originally peaked in the 1960s giving hints of a fondness for the old British rock era.
The band is presently on tour supporting their new album In Stereo that consists of original compositions. AXS was present for their Tucson show at the Fox Theatre on July 17. Here are the highlights and 5 reasons to head out and seem them live.
1) It is Billy Bob Thornton (BBT) after all
Thornton is a jack-of-all-trades. He is an Oscar-winning screenplay writer, director, producer, actor, singer and songwriter. His success in the movie business created a detour with his music until around the year 2000 when he gave it another go. After some years as a solo artist, BBT and his bandmates formed The Boxmasters. AXS first saw BBT perform at the 2000 Willie Nelson's 4th of July picnic.
In his 2018 performance and always, Thornton utilizes the upper register of his vocals during most of the songs. One can hear techniques of phrasing as he delivers their songs with influences from British invasion bands as well as classic country singers.
2) Then there is the rest of the band
The other two core members of the band are guitarist/bassist J.D. Andrew and keyboardist and harmonica player, Teddy Andreadis. Thornton gives credit to Andrew and Andreadis as co-writers and both multi-instrumentalists demonstrated great expertise as performers during their show.
The rest of the touring band was outstanding. Kirk McKim gave the fans some superb shredding particularly notable on “I’ll Make Ye Dance” and the tasty intro to “Away Away.” Dave Fowler on bass and Erik Rhodes on drums rounded out the band.
The entire band is hot and tight. If you see them live, you couldn't find a more talented bunch with great comradery to match.
3) Original songs with meaty lyrics
Thornton has proved that he is a prolific songwriter of raw and gritty lyrics. His songs represent a thoughtful dark humor at its best. Thornton introduced many of the songs with an explanation of the meaning of the song or his inspiration for writing the lyric. It’s interesting to see if your interpretation of the lyrics coincides with the songwriter.
The songwriter explained the meaning of their songs best during the show.
“We are not particularly a psycho-political band. Not every song we write is about some deep political subject. Some songs are just about ‘meet you around the back of the malt shop.’ Just so you don’t misunderstand. We don’t play 'Johnny B. Goode' or 'Blue Suede Shoes' or ‘Stairway to Heaven.'This is all original music.”
BBT introduced “I Still Want To See You (I Just Don’t Want To Hear You)” with the query, “Have you ever had a relationship with someone who you loved to look at, but talking to them was not as much fun?” A lyric in the song included “I love your tongue. Just don’t use it to talk.”
For a complete set list, click here.
4) Thornton’s audience interaction and stories
Thornton’s charm and charisma are legendary on and off stage. Thornton mentioned, “When I was a kid I looked like Ernie Douglass (of My Three Sons). I had buckteeth. I was kind of an outcast at school and I’m still an outcast. I was scared to death about everything. Many of his personal revelations made the show seem like an interview with a neighborhood friend.
The fans loved it. Thornton was rewarded with gifts that included beer. He was delighted to learn that there was a bar in the venue with alcohol.
Thornton demonstrated highly developed powers of observation with people while he was on stage and during the post-show meet and greet. He could charm the proverbial pants off a donkey.
5) It’s a great time for all
Even though the boys in the band were dressed in suit and ties during the set, the band has a vibe of one that plays in the dancehalls and roadhouses around the country. This was a seated show with a more formal ambiance. BBT invited the crowd to stand and gather around the front of the stage and dance during the last 20 minutes of the show.
The band and the fans were much more at ease. There was no glitz, glamour, or pyro that comes with rock shows. It was authentic adult rock music with a real-life perspective.