August 19, 2003
Chastain Park Amphitheatre - Atlanta


Billy Bob Thornton:

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Billy Bob Thornton started off the evening with straightforward but unimaginative rock that belonged in a yuppie bar. That’s not an insult either. That’s just what his music is…upper class bar rock.

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In a small venue, this material might come alive. Here, even an early set cover of The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” couldn’t wake up the crowd.

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Throughout the set, the music was derivative at best but at least the lyrics were infused with dark humor, as was Billy Bob’s demeanor. Before “The Desperate One,” he told an amusing anecdote about his pet worms.

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As the show moved on, the sound morphed toward country as his vocals became more twangy, letting in the Southern accent that was missing at first. “I never sang a song about suicide while people ate Cornish game hen, but I’ll give it a shot,” he stated before an acoustic version of “Island Avenue.” The set ended with a bizarre cover of “Hang On Sloopy” that looped back to bar band territory.

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Huey Lewis & The News:

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Huey Lewis and What’s Left of the News called to mind a middle-aged man reaching for comfortable old sweatpants when he realizes he’s outgrown the tight fitting jeans of his youth. Maybe it was just the oppressive humidity, but the non-rock, beach music, adult contemporary vibe just felt listless and phoned in, which was somewhat disappointing for anyone who remembers the breakthrough album “Sports.”

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“It’s Tuesday night, and it’s party time!” Huey proclaimed this early in the evening, but starting off with an inherently lame cover of “Some Kind Of Wonderful” didn’t make me want to party. I quickly realized my feelings were significantly out of sync with those of the audience, who loved what they were hearing. “Heart of Rock ‘N Roll” should have rocked like its title suggests but instead resembled a Las Vegas revue. It was as if the horns had overthrown the guitars and the guitar that was audible sounded thin and weak.

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There was an abundance of white boy blues, such as the new song “Plan B” (I heard someone in the audience mumble, “He should’ve stuck with Plan A”). But besides me and that one other naysayer, Lewis held the audience in the palm of his hand. The crowd cheerfully took over vocals whenever he aimed the mic their way during a jazzy blues version of “Power of Love,” but ironically there was hardly any power in “The Power Of Love.” “Heart & Soul” was the closest to capturing the band’s younger energy, but even it felt a little limp. There were also plenty of covers I didn’t come to hear, like “60 Minute Man.” The a cappella version of this was at least entertaining in its novelty, but “Pretty Girls” just sounded past its prime. Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues” with Steven Burton guesting on guitar had some muscle to it, but I would have preferred “Walking on a Thin Line,” “Back In Time” or even the goofy “Hip To Be Square.”

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“I Want A New Drug” held promise but soon degenerated into an endless sax solo. Completely in contrast to the way I felt, the audience was having a great time. I didn’t get it. By this point no one was sitting down; they would remain standing for the final forty-five minutes of the show. “If This Is It” was clearly a favorite although with slightly off key vocals (because Huey was in the crowd, without monitors) it came across like karaoke. One particularly enthusiastic male fan exclaimed that he wanted to have Huey’s babies. “Do You Believe in Love” was reworked as a mellow keyboards and lazy sax tune that was almost unrecognizable. The final encore was a lively “Working For a Living” that revved up the crowd even higher and showed what could’ve been. Despite the audience’s obvious satisfaction, I noticed that on the way out, many of them were singing the neglected hits without a trace of resentment that their favorites hadn’t been played. I guess relaxed fit suited this audience just fine. As for me, I guess I’ve still got a few years to go.

Amanda Stahl /

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