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The Billy Bob Thornton Band Live in Austin, Texas
By Chris Van Loan
(more articles from this author)
2002-06-07
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Billy Bob has proven himself to be a gifted actor, writer and director, but does he have the talent to lead a rock band? That was the question I had when I ponied up my 20 bucks to hear his band play at Stubbs in Austin, Texas.

Would Billy Bob come out and “act” like an aging rock star (Mick Jagger chicken wing arms flapping away) or just be his usual quirky, eccentric self. Luckily, for the crowd of about 200, Billy Bob, the bandleader, produced the latter instead of the former.

Beginning every song with a short story, he gave everyone what they were looking for: some humor, some humility and, oh yeah, some decent rock and roll music. The backing band was top notch as they plowed through Springsteen-like bar band numbers, Leonard Cohen-style ambient grooves and what could only be described as 60’s stoner rock. To their credit, the band was very good in every genre and Billy Bob, wisely, stayed in the pocket and avoided any urge to go Michael Bolton.

Dressed mostly in black and wearing a bejeweled black head piece that hung down his back, Billy balanced and dipped like a surfer enjoying the perfect wave. He was genuinely having fun with the music and the audience was too.

If Billy Bob, Kris Kristoferson and Willie Nelson had a vocal contest, there probably would be a tie (and a lot of tired ears), but all of these guys fall into the category of "vocal stylist."

After about an hour or so, I felt that I had heard the depth and breadth of Billy Bob’s show and headed to of one Austin’s well-known coffee houses for a little more music. This kid that looked like Carrot Top was onstage doing his doing his best Dave Matthews thing. The kid actually had some serious chops and a good voice but his performance was, well... soulless.

I guess sometimes music is more about sincerity than talent. Billy Bob has never lacked sincerity and actually has some vocal and songwriting talent. I got my 20 bucks worth and then some.


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