Summer is the perfect time for free concerts. I’m currently suffering from the “college-graduate-who-has-no-money” syndrome but I still need to get my musical fix. It also gives me the chance to see some bands I probably wouldn’t shell out for.
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes is one of those bands. Johnny, along with pal Bruce Springsteen, was one of the pioneers of the “New Jersey sound.” His early albums like This Time It’s For Real and I Don’t Want to Go Home are full of the same sounds as Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and to some extent The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. We can also thank Johnny for being Jon Bon Jovi’s “reason for singing.” I guess every career comes with its regrets.
Southside Johnny hasn’t held up as well as Springsteen. But then again, most musicians don’t ever quite reach the level of even a 60-year-old Bruce. The Asbury Jukes pick up the slack, though. Whenever you think to yourself that Johnny’s voice ain’t what it used to be, you start to hear the fantastic horn section or the probably-too-perfect guitar.
To their credit, though, Johnny and the band played about a two-hour set. At the end, they looked like they could go for even longer. They covered all the hits, “This Time It’s For Real,” The Fever,” “Talk to Me,” “Love on the Wrong Side of Town” and “Hearts of Stone.” The band really shined with New Orleans-style brass on a cover of Tom Waits’ “Tango Til They’re Sore.” They closed the regular set with the fitting “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” before coming back for two encores, ending the night with a rollicking version of “Having a Party.”
So even though Johnny’s no Bruce, he and the Jukes are still a band worth seeing. And there’s probably no better place to see them than on a crowded street in the summer.