ASBURY PARK, NJ—For the 40-year-strong rock band Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, it was a night of beautiful weather, people, and music. For everyone else, it was a night to get star-spangled hammered at the legendary Stone Pony Summer Stage. I don’t know if it was the endless flow of booze or the overall preceding anticipation for the Fourth of July weekend, but everyone, including the opening band, The Weeklings, was pretty high-strung even before Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes took the stage.
Max Weinberg, the longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, even made an appearance during a few of The Weeklings’ songs like “Anytime At All” and a cover of The Beatles’ classic, “I Am The Walrus.” Fireworks from the beach lit up the night sky, illuminating the arena and heightening the crowd’s ravenous expectations for what was to come the rest of the evening.
One by one all of the band members of Southside Johnny appeared on stage, with nothing but natural excitement permeating through the air, kicking off the show with an untitled track from their new album. In fact, there were quite a few unofficially named songs they performed off of their upcoming album, and all of them had the crowd dancing and singing along to the lyrics, or at least trying to keep in time with the chorus. One thing I can say for sure is that their sound is still as awesome and rock-infused as ever.
On top of the piano, guitar, and drums, the new tracks heavily consisted of the supplemental eccentric woodwind and brass instruments, and some tracks even added instruments as unconventional as a harmonica, which takes place of the impressive vocals provided by Southside Johnny Lyon himself. According to him, that was the first instrument the band has ever put on a record, and they clearly had one hell of a time performing with it for the crowd. What’s more, they delivered the music exactly how Johnny promised they would. “I’m here to have a good time tonight, and I don’t give a shit about nothin’ else.” We were all very pleased to find that he stayed true to his word, and sang his heart out for well over two hours while the rest of the band rocked out like they were having the time of their lives.
Much to the fans’ reassurance, the setlist also included songs from Southside Johnny’s previous albums, like “Ain’t None Of My Business,” “The Fever,” “Future In Your Eyes,” and “Walk Away Renee.” They also performed a small number of cover songs like “Somebody To Lean On,” all while comically poking fun at one another in between songs—especially Johnny, who even acknowledged a minor mishap or two which, according to him, was solely the band’s fault. He abruptly stopped in the middle of “I’ve Been Working Too Hard,” only to announce how “[the band] fucked it up,” earning resounding cackles and applause from the audience.
The song that concluded the evening was “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” or so we thought. Southside Johnny pulled not one, not two, but three fake exits, only to spontaneously return with more edgy rock originals, much to everyone’s surprise and delight. And nothing screamed “America” more than Johnny belting out the national anthem toward the end of the show, a sentimental reminder of what we’re all celebrating for.
Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes’ new album, Soultime, is available now through Leroy Records, and Johnny encourages all the Southside fans to buy it “so the kids can eat.” For more information, their band page is southsidejohnny.com.