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Billy Bob Thornton delivers a spirited evening of well-crafted songs

Billy Bob Thorton and the Boxmasters performed Thursday at Knuckleheads Saloon.
Billy Bob Thorton and the Boxmasters performed Thursday at Knuckleheads Saloon. Special to the Star

Billy Bob Thornton isn’t the only film star with music on his Wikipedia page. Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Gary Sinese, Kevin Bacon, Jared Leto, Jada Pinkett Smith, Zoey Deschanel all have created side projects to quench their thirst for music stardom.

In 2007, Thornton founded the band the Boxmasters to indulge in what he has said is his first love, music. They have released several albums, including their most recent, “Boys and Girls … And the World,” released this year.

Thursday night, Thornton, 61, brought the Boxmasters to Knuckleheads, where a crowd of more than 900 watched the Oscar-winning actor deliver a 90-minute-plus set of songs that swayed seamlessly from jangly pop songs that evoked the sounds of ’60s and ’70s pop and rock (think Tom Petty, Big Star and the Byrds) to country/Americana anthems and ballads.

Thornton used his acting skills to tell stories about several songs, many of which have unconventional narratives. Like “Kathy Won’t Share,” about a man who wants to leave his wife because she won’t agree to a threesome. So … he offers Thornton $100 to have sex with his wife so he can divorce her for infidelity.

“She Looks Like Bettie Page” is about dating someone for their looks while ignoring their rude, repugnant personality. “Dead Inside” was a Petty-/Springsteen-like anthem about the numbness and remorse that follows the death of a long-term relationship. “Piece of the Sky” was a melodic, jangly soul-pop song larded in thick harmonies about religious fanaticism. “What Did You Do Today” was a call to make a positive difference in a world that needs it.

His fellow Boxmasters are a band of ringers, especially keyboardist Teddy Andreadis, who also wailed on the blues harp during the sludge-blues number “That Mountain,” a song about exploring life and all its possibilities with, appropriately, a train reference.

The encore included a worthwhile cover of the Shel Silverstein/Dr. Hook classic “Sylvia’s Mother,” which Thornton and his band turned into a country-fried punk anthem, and the joy they ignited both on stage and among the crowd made it clear that this endeavor was much more than a novelty or a vanity act.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

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