Paul Thorn

Show Review: Paul Thorn at Thrasher in Wisconsin

Show Reviews

Paul Thorn Preaches to the “Old People”
at Thrasher Opera House, Green Lake, Wisconsin June 1, 2023

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Paul Thorn and company wasted no time getting night one of their sold-out, two-night stint at Green Lake’s Thrasher Opera House rocking. With drummer Jeffrey Perkins’ beats and Michael “Dr. Love” Graham’s organ driving the bus, the quintet immediately burst into “Don’t Let Me Down Again,” the opening track from 2012’s “What the Hell is Goin’ On” album, followed by 2014’s funky “Too Blessed to be Stressed.”

Thorn is a favorite of the Thrasher crowd, typically packing the house. Thorn acknowledged this popularity with a little story from the stage: “Before the show — you all didn’t see me, but I went across the street and hid behind a building so that I could watch everybody walk in. I was curious who the crowd was going to be. While I was standing there watching you all come in, there were these two young girls standing in front of me. One of them said to the other one, ‘Who is Paul Thorn?’ And the other answered, ‘I don’t know, but the old people certainly seem to like him.’ “

Thorn kept that fan base happy with a selection of tunes spanning his career. From the earliest days (1997’s “800 Pound Jesus” – a song that was later covered by Sawyer Brown) to his most recent album (2021’s “Never Too Late to Call”). Throughout, Perkins and bassist Ralph Friedrichsen held down every groove with veteran reliability while Graham and lead axeman Chris Simmons kept things downhome spicey with well-timed but never exorbitant flare. The later pair often traded tasteful solos, one setting up the other — the two merging riffs woven seamlessly together.

Whether the band was raucous and silly (the white-trash wedding anthem “Ain’t Livin’ in Sin No More,” the sober-except-for-the-weekend lament “I Backslide on Friday” and the people-piss-me-off twanger “I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love”) or soulful and tender (“That’s Life” — a tribute to Thorn’s mother, “Two Tears of Joy” — an ode of thanks for the blessings we often overlook, and “Temporarily Forever Mine” — a wistful pondering of what could have been … performed essentially acapella with only Graham’s accompaniment on ukulele and Perkins keeping the tempo with a handheld shaker) they had the crowd enraptured.

Thorn grew up as the son of a Pentecostal preacher, and that experience reveals itself in his music’s gospel undertones. But it’s also well known that Thorn spent time under the wing of his Uncle Merle, a pimp and a hustler. Oh … and he was also a professional boxer. Those three influences from Thorn’s formative years have served him well in the music business. Being the lead in a band is one part prophet, one part siren; and you have to know when to swing and when to take a punch.

Thrasher Opera House served as Thorn’s church, and I bore witness to him and his band delivering their sermon to a faithful congregation. During the encore of the Evangelical “Get You a Healin’,” Thorn hopped down from the stage to be with his people, both sinners and saints, encouraging them to “let your loving show.”

Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Paul Thorn’s New Album Don’t Let the Devil Ride

Find more information and tour dates here:


Set 1
Don’t Let Me Down Again
Too Blessed to Be Stressed
800 lb. Jesus
That’s Life
Ain’t Livin’ in Sin No More
Long Way from Tupelo
I Backslide on Friday
One More River

Set 2
I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love
Two Tears of Joy
Temporarily Forever Mine
I Have a Good Day
Pimps & Preachers
All About People
Mood Ring
Ain’t Love Strange
Holy Hottie Toddy
Mission Temple Fireworks Stand

Encore: Get You a Healin’

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