Review : Southside Johnny – Birkenhead – 23 Nov 2005

Posted on: Friday, Nov 25, 2005

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead

Having always been a big fan of the music but never having seen the band live, it was a treat to see the nine-piece Southside Johnny & The Asbury Dukes at Pacific Road, as part of the 17th International Guitar Festival of Great Britain.

Nearly thirty years have elapsed since John Lyon founded the band amongst the bars of his native Asbury Park and it was evident he still has a passion for the horn-driven rhythm and blues that made him and The Asbury Jukes a force on the live scene.

A most healthy midweek turnout were treated to some trips down memory lane, some choice covers and a sprinkling of new material from the new “Into The Harbour” release.

The opening “Unchain My Heart” showed what the band are all about, with the four-man horn section firing on all cylinders, with Southside Johnny stalking the stage and singing with all his heart. With regular guitarist Bobby Bandiera away with Bon Jovi, the duties were in the capable hands of Ricky Byrd – every inch a rock and roller – from his cut-off Johnny Cash t-shirt, impressive tattoos and sticky-up hair!

The blues side of Southside Johnny have surfaced over the last few years, and he showed his fine harmonica playing on a version of Tom Waits “Gin-Soaked Boy” – and towards the end of the show on the timeless “Help Me”.

The vintage years of the late seventies and early eighties were covered with the superb “Love On The Wrong Side Of Town”, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” and a glorious cover of The Four Tops “Walk Away Renee” – all beautifully delivered and lapped up by the audience.

Veteran sax player Ed Manion was given a solo spot and vocal on the rollicking “Staggerlee”, with Ricky Byrd showing off his rock and roll licks on the rousing “Blue Christmas” – finishing the song off with broken string!

Bruce Springsteen’s “The Fever” was another highlight amongst many – just one of many song’s the great man passed on to his friend – and a staple in the band’s sets since the early days.

Encore time saw the whole room joining in on “Having A Party”, a self-explanatory title if ever their was one; with the show rounded off with the Rolling Stones “Happy” off the new release – complete with more excellent guitar from Ricky Byrd.

Band line-up, for those people who like to know these things: Southside Johnny (vocals and harmonica), Ricky Byrd (guitar and vocals), Bobby Lynch (keyboards), Muddy Shews (bass), Joe Bellia (drums), Ed Manion and Joey Stann (saxophones), Neil Pauley (trombone) and Chris Anderson (trumpet).

To summarise – a cracking night of proper music, played with skill and passion – I loved it and so did all those present!


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