Images and Article by Bill Kelly
Still rolling along close to 40 years after emerging from the Jersey Shore, Southside Johnny (nee Lyon) brought his Stax driven bar band sound to the newly renovated Paramount Theater in Huntington New York. The band played a mixed set comprised of several tunes from the 2010 release Pills And Ammo along with old favorites like Fever and I Don’t Want To Go Home. Decades on the road have not weakened Johnny’s voice, but rather added a full, throaty roar that would be envied by musicians half his age.
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Comparisons to those other Jersey bans are inevitable, particularly considering the constant cross pollination of band members that seem to start with the Jukes and end up in Bon Jovi, the East Street Band or on Conan with Max Weinberg. But there is something more fundamental, more rootsy that separates Southside from his mega-contemporaries. The songs and grit of the band Friday night evoked the sounds of a part of American culture that seems on the wane; the music of a vibrant working class, pulled from early rock and Stax influenced rhythm and blues. This was a working band, sweating and grinding out music that we listened to on Friday night, after a week of hard, honest labor.
But, much like the culture it reflects, not all is gloom and loss. During a cover of the Stones Happy, Southside and keyboard player Jeff Kazee reminded the crowd that sometimes pure joy is an end to itself. Towards the end of the set, with the horn section taking center stage, bassist John Conte spinning and hoisting his instrument and Lyon wrecking havoc on the stage, the band brought the audience to its feet - affirming the hope that Southside’s brand of music brought to our youth; that sometimes, some good tunes, some friends and a few beers are all you need to make it through.