Clear Lake, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; April 25, 2015
There’s just not that many places left that capture the history and sanctity of Rock and Roll as much as the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. That’s why watching the Boxmasters, play live in this chapel of rock, made for an absolutely perfect night for soaking up the wonderful music and the fantastic stories that go with them, as sung and told by front man Billy Bob “Bud” Thornton. The Boxmasters are: Thornton, co-founder/guitarist J.D. Andrew, guitarist Brad Davis, and keyboardist extraordinaire Teddy 'Zig Zag' Andreadis.
The band, all sporting Liverpool Beatles suits, took the stage, kicking the evening off with a rocking performance of “Emily” off Thornton’s 2003 Solo album, The Edge of the World. I love that classic western sound Davis squeezes out of his guitar on “Providence”. Davis grabs my full attention again in “Beautiful”. He’s such a fantastic guitarist.
Thornton, in a really down-to-earth and heartfelt moment, discussed how much of an honor it was to be playing at the Surf. His honesty and sincerity was felt by everyone. The band then tore through nine consecutive songs off their latest release, Somewhere Down the Road. It was so cool to hear the new tracks “Sometimes There’s a Reason”, “This Game is Over”, and “Kathy Don’t Share”. Immediately following a brief spoken-word introduction from Thornton explaining how religion is a good thing, unless it gets in the hands of the wrong people, Andreadis starts “Piece of the Sky” on his Hammond in a performance fit for Sunday morning church.
After asking the audience about their thoughts on political correctness and profanity, Thornton indeed got their blessing to play an explicit song or two. It was so fun to hear the rarely played tongue-in-cheek song, “I’ll Give You a Ring” (when you give me back my balls), from their self-titled album.
A request from the audience for a song from the late great Warren Zevon prompted Thornton to reminisce about his good friend. He explained they had met each other at the mail box, while living in the same apartment building. They ironically got to talking about a common trait they both suffer from, obsessive compulsive disorder. The Boxmasters then broke into a Zevon-esque written song, “I Shot Him Down”. “Island Avenue”, a song off the album, The Edge of the World, and written by Thornton’s brother Jimmy was a jam-filled treat. After an intense and funky keyboard solo from Andreadis on the Hammond, the band played tight as hell. This was rock and roll at its finest. “Hope and Glory”, the last song of the set was dedicated to everyone who was in the military or had lost someone in war. From Thornton’s vocals to Davis’s killer guitar, the band in general just gels so nicely.
For an encore, the Boxmasters returned to stage in a slightly different configuration, featuring Andreadis this time, on harmonica, and Thornton sporting a tambourine. With a beat similar to the Ramone’s “Blitzkrieg Bop”, they kick in “Love is Real Tonight”, followed by a rendition of “That Mountain” which was so good, it sent chills up my spine. In a cutting heads fashion Andreadis and Davis went toe to toe, harp vs. guitar. It was such an amazing performance to end this stellar show with.
For almost two solid hours, I hung on every note played and every word sung. This show will certainly go down in my history book as one of my favorite concerts.
She Looks Like Betty Page
Middle of the Night
Sometimes There’s a Reason
You’ll Be Lonely Tonight
This Game is Over
A Piece of the Sky
Kathy Won’t Share
What Did You Do Today
I’ll Give You a Ring
I Shot Him down
Hope for Glory
Love is Real Tonight