Jun 7, 2011

Paul Thorn Concert Review

I wrote this for American Noise a month or so ago, but since that site is currently indisposed, I thought I'd go ahead and post it here.

Paul Thorn - Beale Street Music Festival

Paul Thorn and his band played an early Saturday afternoon set at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, but that didn't stop him from putting on an entertaining and spirited show for his appreciative crowd. Amidst intermittent showers and with a backdrop of a flood-bound Mississippi River, Thorn sang crowd favorites and selections from his recent critically acclaimed Pimps and Preachers album.

I think this is where I'm required by law to describe Paul as a former professional boxer from Tupelo, MS turned singer/songwriter whose dad is a preacher. These facts aren't required to qualify the strength of Thorn's music, but they certainly inform every aspect of his artistry.

First of all he thanked the adoring fans for braving the elements before stating his sincere awe at opening for rock n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis. Humility that real is not a trait shared by many artists of Paul's talent.

Leading off with "You're Not the Only One," Thorn and band confidently strode through a set that infused rock, country, folk and funny, keeping the audience fully enthralled for the full hour and a half of allotted time.

Before performing "Time Changes Everything," Paul gave us a nugget of the homespun humor that he's so known for. The gist of the comment was that women have it easy because they can get a man regardless of their employment status. Unfortunately, "Men, if you're broke and ugly, you're out of luck."

Later on he informed us that he didn't hold much ill will from previous break-ups and that if he saw his ex on the side of the road with a flat, he'd happily wave when he drove by. This led into my favorite tune of his, "Love Scar," the tale of a prematurely purchased tattoo with the near-perfect chorus: "He said If I could be a tear rolling down your cheek and die on your lips, my life would be complete/The words that he said really hit her in the heart, so now she's walkin' round with a love scar."

The remainder of the show included sing-alongs like "Rise Up," "I Have a Good Day" and "I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love," with Paul and his musicians sounding soulful and tight in the late-spring warmth and the wafting scent of barbecue.

"I knew this thing was getting big today when John Mellencamp's wardrobe person ironed my shirt… man, we're blowing up!" joked Paul, mid-set, coming off like a drawling, less-verbose Todd Snider.

A couple songs later, and several songs abridged of what the crowd would have preferred, Thorn and company ended the set with a rollicking, soul-reviving take on "Mission Temple Fireworks Stand," leaving us all wanting more.

Even before my first time seeing him live, there wasn't another singer I'd rather share a song, a beer and a conversation with than Paul Thorn and he lived up to that expectation and then some.

Set List:
You're Not the Only One
Weeds in the Roses
Are You With Me?
Time Changes Everything
Love Scar
Living in Sin
Rise Up
Pimps and Preachers
That's Life
I Have a Good Day
A Lot of Good Reasons
I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love
Lovers' Vacation
Mission Temple Fireworks Stand

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