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Review: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
August 25, 2013 - Andy Gray
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes opened its show Saturday at the Warren Community Amphitheatre with “Better Days” as Southside Johnny Lyon encouraged the crowd to sing along with him, “Better days are comin’.”
Folks, they don’t get much better than this.
The Jukes provided a raucous conclusion for the 2013 River Rock at the Amp season. Lyon was equal parts showman, frontman, bluesman, jester and even diplomat, quickly breaking up a fight at the front of the stage that was about to get really ugly.
Then again, I’m not the most impartial observer. I’ve been a Jukes’ fan for more than 30 years, I’ve seen the band live about eight times or so, and few acts deliver more pure fun on stage.
The two-hour show offered a solid mix of old favorites and newer material, along with a few choice covers – Tom Waits’ “Tango Till They’re Sore,” The Rolling Stones’ “Happy” and James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” sung by keyboard player Jeff Kazee.
A great horn section always has set the Jukes apart, and the current lineup is no different. Sax player John Isley was stunning on the Left Banke classic “Walk Away Renee.”
Lyon seemed unhappy with the mix in his monitors, but it sounded good from the seats, whether he was belting out “The Fever,” “Talk to Me,” “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” and “This Time Baby’s Gone for Good” or making up lyrics about corndogs, inspired by one of the vendors.
And by the final encore, the Jukes had about a 100 fans on stage singing and dancing along on Sam Cooke’s “Havin’ a Party.”
On a perfect summer night, there are few better places to see a show than the downtown amphitheater. The only downside with the venue is the stage is at the same level as the grassy area in front of it, and that grassy area was filled with gold and silver VIP seating.
Sitting at a Jukes’ concert is blasphemy, but standing in the VIP seats created a serious obstruction for those behind them (that’s what the fight was about). I sat far more than I wanted to in deference to those behind me, but there was no way to make everyone satisfied.
Sure, I’d like to have heard “Hearts of Stone” or “Forever” from the “Men Without Women” live album, but I didn’t need that Stones’ cover to leave “Happy.”
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