September 18, 2003
The Tale of Two Bobs: Wherein Josh Jabcuga Bags on Billy Bob Thornton’s Recent Concert in Buffalo and says “Bravo!” to Joe Bob Briggs’ Latest Book.
Billy Bob Thornton, or “BBT” as his concert T-shirts proclaimed, stopped off in Buffalo on Tuesday, August 26, 2003, to play a show in support of his second release, “The Edge of the World.” There was a certain buzz in the air; not since the prodigal son, Vincent Gallo, last returned home to premier his pre-BROWN BUNNY film, BUFFALO’66, had a real, live, breathing celebrity made an appearance in the Queen City.
It was quite the spectacle. Local entertainment papers and even the Buffalo News hyped the event for weeks.
The concert would be held at The Continental, a local punk rock dive made infamous by a once-unknown GOO GOO DOLLS, who would frequent the venue in the ‘80s while still coming into their own. Upon hearing that Billy Bob would be playing at The Continental, I thought to myself, “Wow, he must have no clue,” followed by, “He must be going for the whole indie cred thing.”
Apparently it was the former, since a very reputable source claimed Billy Bob cursed out The Continental and the city of Buffalo upon arriving and laying eyes on the tiny eye sore (the club, not the city, I think). Billy Bob, furious at whoever was responsible for booking him into the ugly yet cozy joint, even held a five hour sound check, pissed off the entire time. I thought, “Cool, this will make for a good show.”
The night started off with local act Alison Pipitone, who actually had a larger crowd for her set than for Mr. Sling Blade himself. One of the funniest sights all night came courtesy of Ms. Pipitone’s guitarist, who was wearing a shirt bearing the image of the former Mrs. Thornton, one Angelina Jolie.
Billy Bob would take the stage at roughly 10:10 p.m. The way he came strutting out onto the stage, complete with dark John Lennon shades, you’d think (or at least he did) that he was Jim Morrison, Elvis, and the Pope all rolled into one. The small but decent sized crowd was appreciative of seeing an Academy Award-winner in their midst (although I would have been more appreciative of seeing Angelina Jolie).
One thing can be said: The man takes his singing seriously. His voice, though, begs to differ. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the lead singer from early ‘90s rock radio favorites,
Ugly Kid Joe, famous for their song “I Hate everything About You” and their cover of “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Billy Bob’s voice isn’t as whiny, -- it replaces that with some down home gruff, but it’s just as annoying, none the less.
The stage was adorned with the typical hippie props: incense, lava lamps a plenty, and “Bone Daddy” and “Mr. Twinkie” bobble head dolls. The band was tight, probably the best musicians Billy Bob’s money could buy, and they more than made up for the lead singer’s questionable vocal talent.
Half the appeal of going to a show like this, besides watching the “movie star” give an earnest, train wreck of a performance, is seeing how the crowd reacts. This star-struck crowd did not disappoint. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that the man is in major Hollywood productions, or if it’s because he graced the covers of supermarket tabloids on a weekly basis when involved in his relationship with Angelina Jolie (who has “US WEEKLY Fodder” written all over her face, too, save the bee stung, possibly injected lips), but wow, the groupies were out in full force. I mean, some of these girls looked somewhat sophisticated if not downright respectable; these weren’t the typical arena rats hanging out near the buses waiting to catch a glimpse of Justin Timberlake or Eminem. Most of these women thought the secret to meeting Billy Bob was by exposing as much chest as possible (a time-tested technique), and of course, getting as close to his line of sight as possible.
BBT started off a two song jam, “Like the Allman brothers used to do,” and one of the songs was completely spoken word. Keep in mind, BBT was not speaking in his regular voice when reciting the lyrics, though; he was trying to do this sexy, quasi radio DJ voice. He sounded just like Eddie Murphy when the comedian does his “white guy” voice routine. It was unintentionally hilarious.
For some inexplicable reason, there were about five or six people sitting in chairs, directly in front of Billy Bob’s mike stand. These people were in their mid-forties to late-fifties, I’d estimate, so maybe it’s been awhile since they’ve been to a “rock show,” and I’m certain
they’d never been to The Continental, which usually attracts the Marilyn Manson crowd. At one point, one of the seated women handed Billy Bob a dollar bill (maybe a ten dollar bill). Assuming she wanted him to sign it, he looked at her as if to say, “I need a pen, I don’t have one.” She leaned over and whispered something to him. Keep in mind that this is mid song. Apparently, in one of the lamest displays I have ever witnessed at a concert (besides the fact that this woman was seated for the entire set), was that she was trying to purchase Billy Bob’s cut-off button shirt from him. He looked at her and said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” She pleaded with him. He replied, “My mother gave me this shirt, I can’t.” He laughed it off, as I’m sure by this point in his career he’s used to strange requests like that, but still, c’mon, lady.
Billy Bob’s in between song banter was full of the “Gee whiz’s” and “Gosh Golly’s,” like he was playing up the whole redneck gimmick that he does so well on Charlie Rose and Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton. He mentioned that he’d passed through Buffalo twice, both times on train, and each time there was snow. A young lad with an impressive Mohawk standing up front yelled back, “No shit!”
In a nice touch, BBT dedicated a song to his friend, the recently passed June Carter Cash. He also played a song that was written by his brother, “The best song writer I knew,” who had passed suddenly while still a young man.
The audience was very kind. The women, and the men, for that matter, clapped and bobbed their heads along to Billy Bob’s brand of roots-rock bar music, like they were hearing Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” for the one-millionth time. Of course, most of them had never heard a single BBT song before tonight, and most of them probably never would again. I think it made Thornton feel good that the crowd of “working class people, like me,” as he referred to them, was so receptive to his music. I hope he understands that it has nothing to do with his music, though.
Review of PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING: SHOCKING MOVIES THAT CHANGED HISTORY! By Joe Bob Briggs ($24.95, Universe).
PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING is an insightful and reverential look at films that are more often than not deemed to be cult films, or midnight movies; films like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, DRUNKEN MASTER, and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
The book is not simply a compendium of film reviews. It’s much more exhaustive than that. In his latest book, Mr. Joe Bob Briggs provides a detailed look into the history of what some refer to as psychotronic films, beginning with THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919) and ending with David Cronenberg’s CRASH (1996), with stops in between for such monumental works as BLOOD FEAST (1963), THE WILD BUNCH (1969), THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and RESERVOIR DOGS (1992).
The book goes in depth about how the screening of such films, with the right promotion, can become scandalous spectacles in and of themselves, rolling into town like a carnival of hype, sin, and sizzle, like MOM AND DAD did in 1947. Briggs writes:
“If you lived in a small town in the forties or fifties, it was virtually impossible not to know about a film called MOM AND DAD. Sooner or later, a flamboyant publicity man would drive into town, the ads would appear, and the tempestuous debate would begin. Plastered on every available storefront, barn, bus bench, and shoeshine stand was a poster seducing you with an attractive couple in mid-kiss and black bold-faced ballyhoo exploding all around them. And in a black box in the lower left-hand corner:
‘Extra! In person: Elliot Forbes, The secrets of sensible sex.’”
Of course, the film was nothing more than a glorified sex education film, but the audience was conned into believing they were experiencing something much more, and in a sense, they were.
Briggs is very adept at providing a snapshot of the times and the impact that the films had on the culture, especially in the chapters covering DEEP THROAT and SHAFT. He discusses the films from their infancy stages and follows them through the course of several decades, and in the case of Linda Lovelace, star of DEEP THROAT, from her rise to the end of her bizarre life. More often than not, the buzz surrounding the films, and the continuous influence that they have on the art of filmmaking itself, is vastly more intriguing than the actual films, and Briggs does not deny this. He also does not deny his undying love for these films, as his own work here proves.
Briggs is especially smitten by CRASH, and if you do not like the film, after reading the book, you will at least have a new appreciation for it. And this brings us to the heart of Brigg’s PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING. Like the best books on film, PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING makes you want to run out to the video store or the cinema and catch a movie of your own, or even track down some of the titles that Briggs expounds upon. Leatherface never looked so good.
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