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Southside Johnny is still having a party

City Winery, Boston, February 20, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Forty-eight years young, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes know their way around a song as well as a concert. Having a few chestnuts to sing, not to mention covers that work, will have that effect.

Steeped in rock and soul, Southside Johnny Lyons picked from among his own material, that of long-time friends Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt (he was a former band mate) plus a healthy dose of well-delivered covers.

The band offered a more off-handed take on "I Don't Want to Go Home," going for a slower version. Lyons opted for a more traditional spin on the country ballad, Buck Owens' "Together Again." He wasn't Buck, but Owens would have been proud.

When it came to covers, Southside Johnny seemed to have picked them simply because he wanted to, and they all made sense. Saying that David Ruffin would roll over in his grave (not sure why), he executed "My Whole World Ended (the Moment You Left Me)." With the help of his horns trio, Lyons scored on The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."

"Love on the Wrong Side of Town" from Little Steven and "Hearts of Stone" and "The Fever" from The Boss (the concert featured four Springsteen songs) underscored the New Jersey connection was alive and well.

The Asbury Jukes were a tour de force. Keyboardist/vocalist Jeff Kazee was a major standout. Decked out in a fedora, he sometimes aided and abetted Lyons on vocals, not to mention let loose on the keyboards and organ. The truth was that all seven members of the Jukes played a role in forging the upbeat sounds. The three-piece horn section of John Isley on sax, Neal Pawley on trombone Chris Anderson on trumpet picked up a lot of steam (and far more punch) as the two-plus hour show went along.

Put another way, it sure looked like band and the sold-out crowd were having a lot of fun.

At 74, Johnny's voice isn't what it used to be as reaching the high notes was more difficult. But the vocal grit and often times intensity to the delivery made up for it. No one could say that Lyons lacked passion and a love for the music.

As a recording artist, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes aren't going for the hits any more. It's more about having a good time and playing music that inspires them and bringing the fans along for the ride. And in closing with Sam Cooke's "We're Having a Party," Southside Johnny and company hit it just right.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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