June 16, 2023
Newberry Opera House
Review by Joseph Hett
Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters Rock Newberry
The Boxmasters stopped in Newberry, SC at the Newberry Opera House on Friday night. They were touring in support of their latest album titled “’69” – their 14th career album. The rock band out of Bellflower, California features founding members Billy Bob “Bud” Thornton (lead vocals) and J.D. Andrew (guitar) along with Kirk McKim (lead guitar), Raymond Hardy (bass) and Nick Davidson (drums). This was their first stop in Newberry since September of 2015.
After a short documentary of the band’s history, The Boxmasters all came out dressed in uniform with their names displayed on their blue work shirts. The Boxmasters started with “Emily” and then proceeded to crank out the fan favorites “Jupiter Man,” “She Looks Like Betty Page” and “Go Like This.”
After the string of songs, Thornton welcomed everyone to the show. He mentioned that he wanted to turn the intimate theater into a rock club by the end of the evening. Thornton noted, “If you have not been to one of our shows and do not have our recordings, I have to give you the disclaimer which is…we do not play “Stairway to Heaven” or “La Grange” or “Colour My World” or “Takin’ Care Of Business” or any of that. We are an original rock and roll band from Bellflower, California based on the 1960s.”
After a spacey sounding intro, The Boxmasters continued with the Devo inspired “Science Fiction.” Before “I Still Want to See You,” Thornton explained that the meaning behind the song is about lovers quarreling.
“You’ll Never Be Mine” featured a blazing, extended guitar solo by McKim. During this song is when what appeared to be a bat started flying in circles around the ceiling of the opera house. Patrons in the balcony were alarmed when the bat headed their way. After a few minutes, the bat must have found an exit and wasn’t seen again.
“We’re gonna do this song that we don’t know very well. Now, if we get through it without screwing it up, which is not likely, but if we do – you have to stand up and cheer as if you’re watching the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 and see The Beatles. Alright?,” Thornton exclaimed before “Grace Came Home.” After the song, everyone stood up and cheered.
They kept the tunes coming with “Anta Nica,” which was written after seeing the missing lights in the Santa Monica sign. It was interesting to hear that “Light Rays” and it’s catchy chorus was actually inspired by a stalker of Thornton’s. The Grass Roots sounding “Chestnut Eyes” contained a random joke interlude about a sawmill worker ordering five beers. The foreboding “Light of Lenore” was an ode to Edgar Allan Poe.
“Summertime in L.A. Again” and “That’s Just Me Shakin’” were dedicated to the street dances of the 1960s. Before these tunes, Thornton told everyone to “get up and come on down” to the stage. The sold out crowd slowly made their way down to recreate a rock club atmosphere like Thornton had originally envisioned.
They closed the set out with “I Got a Girl” and “Island Avenue.” For the encore, they skipped a step by not leaving the stage and went straight into the twanging “Time.”
The Boxmasters put on a magnificent show to the capacity crowd’s delight. It was the perfect way to spend a Friday night. Hopefully it won’t be another eight years until The Boxmasters come around again.