June 30, 2017
On a sleepy Friday evening at the beginning of a long 4th Of July weekend, Westbury's NYCB Theatre was filled with the sounds of both Woodstock (Big Pink) and the Jersey Shore. The Weight Band featuring players who were either actual players in the Band, or are directly and deeply connected to the group's legacy and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes provided an evening of fun energetic rock, R&B, soul, rockabilly, pop that had the audience dancing in the aisles and singing along.
The Weight Band, featuring Jim Weider and Randy Ciarlante from the Band, Brian Mitchell of the Levon Helm Band, Marty Grebb played with Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, and Albert Rogers who played with Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, began the festivities with a note perfect version of "Stagefright."
Expertly keeping alive the spirit, music and essence of the group while celebrating the lives and legacies of the member so the Band who have passed (Manuel, Danko and Helm), the Weight Band joyfully performed "King Harvest Has Surely Come," "Ophelia" (which Weider stated was dedicated "to Mr. Allen Toussaint from New Orleans and Mr. Levon Helm. This goes out to them."), a rollicking "Rag Mama Rag," "It Makes No Difference" (dedicated to Rick Danko), "Life is a Carnival," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up On Cripple Creek."
The performance ended with Southside Johnny (on harmonica and background vocals) and the Southside Horns joining the players for powerful and memorable versions of "The Weight" and "The Shape I'm In."
The songs were faithfully re-created with the appropriate DNA that can only be provided by those connected to the Band. The Weight Band did the Band proud and the audience was thrilled.
After a short intermission, at approximately 9:25pm, headliner Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes took over. The second act to rise from the late '60s/early '70s Jersey Shore music scene, the Asbury Jukes followed Bruce Springsteen's emergence and came to early prominence based on the songwriting abilities and album production of early member Steve Van Zant (then known as Miami Steve), some songs gifted to the band by Springsteen and the blue-eyed soul vocals provided by Southside Johnny Lyon. Currently the Asbury Jukes are comprised of Lyon, keyboardist Jeff Kazee, bassist John Conte, guitarist Glenn Alexander, drummer Tom Seguso, saxophonist/percussionist John Isley, trumpeter Chris Anderson and trombonist Neal Pawley.
Lyon and his cohorts delivered a tight eighteen song main set that leaned heavily on the group's Springsteen/Little Steven-influenced history, including the opening number "Until The Good Is Gone," "Love On The Wrong Side of Town," "Take It Inside," "Some Things Just Don't Change" "All The Way Home," "Angel Eyes," and "Forever" while effortlessly mixing in newer fare such as "Passion Street," "Spinning" from Soultime (Leroy Records, 2015) and older cover tunes like Sam & Dave's "Broke Down Piece of Man," the Rolling Stones' "Happy," Little Walter's "Key To The Highway" and the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renée."
The freewheeling, fun-filled performance was punctuated by a few stories and the interplay between Lyon and Kazee. Not only was Kazee the perfect foil for Lyon (a consummate showman), but his sweet vocals helped Lyon through the evening. Lyon, whose voice sounded a bit rough, soldiered through with an electrifying performance despite being a bit raspy and hoarse. The main set ended with "All Night Long" from 1992's Better Days (Impact Records) and the Van Zant-penned "I Don't Want To Go Home" from the band's 1976 Epic Records debut album of the same name.
The band then came back for its encore and launched into the Springsteen-penned "Talk To Me," all the while shimmied and danced across the stage. The combination of the choreographed dance moves by the horn section, with Anderson showing that he was especially adept at spinning his trumpet on his finger, re-energized the crowd and sent them off into the night singing, dancing and bopping along with a feel-good high that can only be provided by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes--one of the greatest bar bands to take the stage.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon