By Steve Svetovich
They were “Having a Party.” And that was just one of the 22 classics performed by Jersey Shore’s Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Scranton Cultural Center, Saturday, March 19.
The Jersey based group performed before close to 1,000 enthusiastic fans at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Theatre inside the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Ave., Scranton.
The band, led by frontman Southside Johnny, with a mostly South Jersey based cult following, is closely related to Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band. Miami Steve Van Zandt of Springsteen’s East Street Band was co-leader, song writer, guitarist, arranger and producer during the group’s formative years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Asbury Jukes recorded and performed several Springsteen tunes and have been regulars for years at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Springsteen and fellow East Street Band members have their roots at the Stone Pony and continue to perform there on occasion.
The Asbury Jukes have performed on many occasions with Springsteen. East Street band members such as drummer Max Weinberg and late sax player Clarence Clemons have toured with the Jukes. Jon Bon Jovi, also with roots in South Jersey, toured with the Asbury Jukes in 1990.
John Lyon, 67, better known as Southside Johnny, was raised in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and graduated from Neptune High School in 1967 with Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez and Garry Tallent. Lopez and Tallent were to become future musical cohorts of Southside Johnny and later members of Springsteen’s East Street Band.
Wearing jeans, a black shirt and shades, Southside Johnny, sporting a mustache and brown, grayish shaggy hair, came on stage backed by an eight-piece band. The Asbury Jukes included two guitarists, a drummer, keyboard player, trombone player and horn section.
He showed great energy and enthusiasm from the onset. And it was evident those who attended the show were true Southside Johnny followers.
Southside Johnny sang and played harmonica on “Don’t Waste My Precious Time,” the second song of the concert. That got the crowd going.
Then he and the Asbury Jukes performed one of the group’s big hits, “Love on the Wrong Side of Town.”
Southside Johnny showed his talents performing with maracas on “Harder than it Looks.”
With a strong horn influence, he and the Jukes performed a rousing version of the 1960s hit “Don’t Walk Away Renee.”
Following a bluesy, horns tune, Southside Johnny, on harmonica animated and energetic, performed another one of the band’s big hits, “All Night Long.” That drew a positive reaction from the crowd.
Prior to performing, “Don’t Try to Stop Me Till the Good is Gone,” Southside Johnny told stories of his earlier days performing with Springsteen, Miami Steve Van Zandt,,Garry Tallent and other East Street Band members in Asbury Park, New Jersey clubs. He spoke of one club he performed in with Springsteen and Van Zandt. “We were the house jam band. We got paid $15 a night to play eight sets from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. Bruce (Springsteen) was sometimes on guitar. Gary Sanchez was on keyboard. Then we would play cards with Miami Steve and Garry Talent. Imagine, $15 for eight sets. We would be up all night.”
Southside Johnny followed that number with another hit song, “This Time It’s for Real.”
Following “Cadillac Casanova,” and a few songs in, the Jukes performed “Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”
Then came a highly energized, frenetic version of “Talk to Me,” another one of Southside Johnny’s huge hits. He threw a beverage into the crowd during the song. That got the crowd going even more. During the course of the song, a crowd of fans gathered near the front of the stage shouting “one, two, three, four!” to the beat of the tune.
Then came the classic hit, “Hearts of Stone,” with the crowd swaying to the music.
Southside Johnny showed a little versatility by then performing a nice version of Sinatra’s, “Fly Me to the Moon.”
The group performed a hard hitting version of “The Fever” and then “Good Time Trapped.”
Then came the Jukes signature song, “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” to the delight of the crowd.
That was followed up by a nice version of The Drifters hit, “Up on the Roof” and the group’s own, “Tough to Get.”
Southside Johnny briefly left the stage before coming back for an encore with another signature song, “Having a Party,” as those in attendance danced away.
And it was a party, indeed, at the Scranton Cultural Center.
Southside Johnny, known as “The Grandfather of the New Jersey Sound,” did not disappoint.
An After Party with snacks and drinks was hosted by the Scranton Cultural Center after the terrific performance.