The Boxmasters, featuring lead singer Billy Bob Thornton, stopped in Sellersville, PA
What’s your first thought when you hear that a movie star is headlining his own band, and has for the last twelve years? Chances are it’s an eye roll and some muttering about how such a thing could be little more than a vanity project–after all, if he throws enough of his Hollywood dough at a being a rock star, and said celeb could end up a good facsimile of one. But take another look.
For Billy Bob Thornton, being a musician isn’t the answer to a movie star midlife crisis. It has been his way of life since before Tinseltown came calling. A solo project for Thornton brought him and band co-founder J.D. Andrew together, and they eventually formed The Boxmasters.
The Boxmasters packed in a sold-out crowd at the Sellersville theater, an intimate 325-seat venue with its own unique history, in a small village about half an hour outside Philadelphia.
Taking the stage just after 9 pm, wearing mechanics smocks and carrying matching teal-and-white guitars, The Boxmasters played music from the last few years of releases. The Boxmasters are made up of incredible musicians. J.D. Andrew is a Grammy-winning engineer, and their keyboardist Teddy Andreadis has had an impressive solo career all his own.
With a fondness for British Invasion rock, The Boxmasters fused all manner of sounds 1950’s and 1960’s music. Think somewhere between Dion, the Beatles, with a little southern Allman Brothers thrown in, thanks to the epic guitar licks present on many of their numbers.
Thornton takes lead vocals to great effect. Forget the deep Arkansas draw you know from film and TV. His high register evokes the aforementioned Dion, with just a little bit of ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. The latter is not an insult. With tongue-in-cheek numbers like “Kathy Won’t Share,” “I Got Glendale,” and “Watching the Radio,” Thornton’s voice perfectly winks at the goofiness in each piece.
With the perfect mix of fun and sometimes downright comical offerings, The Boxmasters’ more serious songs such as “Desperation Parade,” and “Careless” fall that much harder on the listener. Often, songs came after some home-spun stories told by Thornton. And, as the setlist may not change this much on their marathon of a tour (41 cities in 46 days, they told the crowd) I won’t spoil any. But suffice it to say I could go watch Billy Bob in a third career: stand-up comedy.
The show was pure fun. It was as if we stepped into The Boxmasters’ living room for a jam session, rather than a theater show. Perhaps that was the intimacy of the venue. But I think it’s something that happens when master musicians get together for a project that is pure passion: that love leaves the stage with the music, and infects the audience.
If you can get to see The Boxmasters while they travel the U.S. in their Prevost like the true road warriors they are, do it. Even if you know nothing of their music–as I didn’t before preparing for my interview just a few weeks ago–you will become a fan instantly.