On Tuesday, July 8, Mississippi Nights was packed—all to see the new mini-super-group, The Thorns. Band members Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins could all have drawn a decent couple hundred audience members a piece (well, Sweet probably would have drawn more than that since he regularly sells out the Duck Room on solo tours), but the strength of this unity is one to behold, visually and musically.
The Thorns came out of three friends just fooling around, said Sweet. They wrote a few songs together and the next thing they knew they got a record contract from Capitol Records. All three guys insist the Thorns is a side project, and each intends to continue on with their solo careers.
Opening up for the Jayhawks (club management said the original bill had the Jayhawks opening for them, but the Thorns fans—typically in their 30s and 40s--all have to get up early for work the next day!), the band blew into their very Crosby, Stills and Nash-sounding tunes, songs like “Dragonfly” adding a heavy dose of classic Fleetwood Mac. The harmonies are sweet and perfect enough to forgive the folky path a former pop rock king like Sweet is taking. And everyone who knows his pre-Girlfriend album stuff knows that Sweet was always soft and sweet deep down.
The live act gave a raw, rougher energy that the highly-polished, a tad overproduced, new album doesn’t have. In addition, all three guys looked good and lively, and Sweet has dropped a ton of weight, suggesting that perhaps this music is good for him all-around. Matthew Sweet's contributions are some of his best songs ever, with that world-weary sadness that marks the best of his earlier work. In any case, the harmonies are pure joy, and a few of the songs have some special meaning to Sweet fans, particularly, "I Told You", which may rank up in the top 5 Matthew Sweet songs of all time, and "Thorns", a kind of a pissy, snotty song along the lines of Sweet’s great angry tune, "Knowing People".
Smiles between the guys during the set revealed inside jokes and private amusement, proving these three are real friends and as authentic as their music.
“I told the guys that, [with this country flavor] we’re gonna be opening up for the Dixie Chicks,” Matthew Sweet told the audience, “and the next thing you know, we get on the European Dixie Chicks tour!” If the Thorns can pull the tour off without contracting the political virus the Dixie Chicks seem to have caught, it could be a great thing for them. But who knows? Maybe a pissy attitude and a great scandal is just what this Sweet-driven band needs to kick some real ass.