Looking at Southside Johnny (John Lyon) having a blast up on stage, you can just imagine him playing the Jersey Shore bars on hot, sweaty summer nights in the late 60's/early 70's, trading licks with Springsteen and Clarence and Little Steven. And while 'The Boss' is busy making trillions playing the BIG stages and writing important songs about important issues in very important albums, Johnny is playing free shows at the Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den and the Milford Oyster Festival - and seems to be having a hellava time doing it. Lucky us!
I Don't want To Go Home is in my album collection, but I never play vinyl these days so Johnny has been relegated to the back of the line. But mention of him stirs fond memories of his R&B style, his cool duet with Ronny Spector on the Springsteen-penned "You Mean So Much to Me" and the other two hits - "Fever" (also written by Bruce) and the title cut.
After sitting through entertaining sets by Big Fuzz and Darik & the Funbags and browsing the arts/crafts/food/drink/talent, we were ready for some Jukes - and so was the rest of the sizable crowd at the Milford Athletic Complex softball outfield (bet you can't get that close to Mick and Keith at Fenway).
The back of Johnny's shirt is soaked with sweat and he hasn't even started! He's got the sunglasses working even though it is overcast and the bass player shows up after the first song. But First Bass is covered by 'some young guy', who is urged by Johnny to "take five bucks from petty cash" for his efforts as he exits to appreciative cheers. There's lots of Jukes to go around. Two saxes, trombone and trumpet make up a competent and very theatrical horn section. Love these guys! The lead guitar guy croons the backup vocals (and apparently gets all the babes). Rounding out the Jukes is the drummer (no solo, thank God!), a very good keyboardist and the late bass player. No Ronny Spector appearance, dammit. Oh yeah, and Johnny plays a pretty nice blues harmonica.
Johnny and the Jukes work their way through his catalog during the hour and a half show, leaving "I Don't Want To Go Home" until the end and closing with Sam Cooke's "Having a Party". And they seem to be having a party as much as their fans. The only negative is a beachball blitz near the end of the concert that smells of being staged; it gets distracting (and Johnny can't dribble the ball, though he tries again and again and....). Lose it, Johnny. But I nitpik, and Johnny promises to return next year and we're holding him to it.
A good day indeed. If only Ronny had stopped by. Oh well, maybe next year.
Messin' With the Blues