Ears are probably still ringing from the incredible performance by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on Saturday night at Landmark on Main Street. Attendees of the sold-out show certainly got their money’s worth – the band played for almost three hours, with barely a breath between songs. It was one of the most exciting shows I’ve seen at Landmark, and that’s saying a lot.
There is no doubt that Southside Johnny’s sound is the “real deal” – gritty, heartfelt rock and roll with some blues thrown in for good measure. Johnny has many ties with Bruce Springsteen – both New Jersey boys who know how to rock. But given the choice (and no disrespect to “The Boss”), I’d sooner see Southside Johnny in an intimate venue like Landmark than see Springsteen in a huge stadium.
While the members of the Asbury Jukes have changed over time, credit must be given to Johnny for collecting together such a talented lineup, including Glenn Alexander on guitar, John Conte on bass, Jeff Kazee on keyboards (including a Hammond Organ played through a Leslie rotating speaker), Tom Seguso on drums, and a horn section consisting of Neal Pawley on trombone, Chris Anderson on trumpet, and the marvelous John Isley on saxophone.
Southside Johnny took the stage as John Platt of WFUV was introducing him and basically just exploded into song and didn’t stop for the next almost three hours. At times sounding a bit like Springsteen (whose songs he sometimes covers) and at other times sounding more like Joe Cocker-style blue-eyed soul, Johnny was one of the most energetic performers I’ve seen. Running from one side of the stage to the other, frantically waving his arms to encourage his drummer to play louder, and wailing on his harmonica, Johnny was a sight to be seen. The audience was enthralled.
It’s hard to pick out highlights of this performance, since the whole thing was so superb. The band covered all the hits – “Talk to Me,” “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” ”I Don’t Want to go Home,” and “Walk Away Renee.” Particularly great were “Trapped Again,” and his rendition of Springsteen’s “The Fever.” But possibly the most surreal moment was when the band did a tribute to Davy Jones by first performing The Monkees’ “Steppin’ Stone” and then “Daydream Believer.” This was immediately followed by a rousting version of the Rolling Stones’ “Happy.” Also worth mentioning was the absolutely gorgeous rendition of “Many Rivers to Cross” by keyboardist (and singer) Jeff Kazee.
Johnny barely took a breath between numbers and saved his talking for during the song, over a musical background. At one point, an audience member became so enthused that she jumped out of her seat and ran onto to stage to dance with a nonplused Southside Johnny. By the end of the show, everyone was up and dancing in front of the stage. I was surprised that they didn’t save “I Don’t Want to Go Home” for the encore – since clearly neither the band nor the audience wanted to go anywhere. But he closed with another fan favorite – “We’re Having a Party.”
For those who were unable to get tickets to this sold-out show (and sadly, many were unable), let’s hope that Landmark will bring back Southside Johnny to Long Island’s North Shore as soon as possible.