Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes

With her first contribution on The Substantive Rachel Harms provides the words and a picture from a night seeing Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes at Kentish Town, London. (Full Setlist at the end of the page).

Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes – O2 Forum Kentish Town 22 June 2017

On Thursday 22nd June, Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes made a rousing return to London for their only stop in the UK this tour. On an unforgettable night, the unmistakable sound of the Jersey Shore was once again brought to the stage.

With rave reviews from previous shows, and Southside being on top of his game, I waited in the queue feeling incredibly optimistic about what this warm summer night would hold. This was my first time seeing them, and I thought it was about time due to my love for fellow New Jersey musicians Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven. I’d loved Southside Johnny’s music for quite some time now, and was always aware of his striking showmanship and soulful voice. The entertainment factor of a Southside show is something that is just undeniable, so I had eagerly awaited this night for a long while.

I entered the venue and resided in a spot at the front, just slightly off centre. There was an immediate buzz in the place, with everyone ready to be enlightened by the soulful sound of those horns once more. Support band Hardwicke Circus, an eight piece rock band hailing from Carlisle, kicked off the night with a defiant 70’s vibe. Their confidence and musicianship was impressive as they got the crowd going with a strong horn section showing resemblance to that of The Jukes. Lead singer Jonny Foster stood out as a performer, and his likeness to a young Mick Jagger shone through. His rough-edged tone, and captivating deliverance, alongside the beaming quality of the band really made me believe that they are heading towards success. It was refreshing to hear a young band with such a stand out sound.

A small wait later, Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes entered the stage, delving into an uptempo ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town’, showing off the phenomenal horn section consisting of Chris Anderson on the trumpet, John Isley on the saxophone and Neal Pawley playing the trombone. Johnny’s gritty voice was complemented by keyboardist Jeff Kazee who added wonderful harmonies throughout the night.

‘Passion Street’, a request from the audience, was a particular highlight; it brought a soul affirming saxophone solo from John Isley, taking the evening to an entirely other level. The soulful notes were breath taking, ligthting up the room and led to a deserved round of applause for Isley. Moving into a more bluesy element, the band played ‘Livin’ With The Blues’ before covering William Bell’s ‘Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday’, and guitarist Glenn Alexander let loose on a rocking ‘Harder Than It Looks’. As each musician highlighted their incredible skills, it became clear to me that this was easily one of the best live shows I’d ever been to.

As the night moved on, a personal favourite of mine, ‘Walk Away Renee’ invited a heartwarming singalong with the audience proving it to be another high point. The band was then joined onstage by Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis for a jazzy ‘Key To The Highway’.

Johnny delighted the audience continuously with his character, and raised a few laughs when declaring that there was ‘no need for lyricists like Bruce [Springsteen]’, only ‘baby baby baby’s’ are needed. He experimented a little, before coming to his own conclusion that it just wasn’t the case. Steve Van Zandt also got a mention, as Southside introduced ‘Ride The Night Away’ as ‘the song Steve wished he’d written’. Being one of my favourites from Steve’s new album ‘Soulfire’, I was more than happy to hear it.

Old favourites were played including an exceptional ‘Talk To Me’ which ignited the audience as well as drawn out, ‘The Fever’. However, there was also an inclusion of some newer material from Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes most recent album, ‘Soultime’. ‘All I Can Do’ and ‘I’m Not That Lonely’ fit perfectly into the evening, with the classic sound of the Jukes never letting up.

Finally, the song the audience was waiting for, a joyous ‘I Don’t Want To Go Home’. An anthem of the Jersey Shore, no doubt about it. Oh my, those horns! It was this point that I realised I didn’t want the night to end. And then, what really turned the show into something special, the band segued into none other than Springsteen’s ‘Sherry Darling’ to an ecstatic reception from the crowd. There isn’t a better suited cover for the band, and the atmosphere was electric. Looking around, I don’t think there was a foot that wasn’t tapping, a mouth that wasn’t smiling or a person that wasn’t singing.

Ending the night came encores of ‘Together Again’ and a Southside trademark ‘Having A Party’, in which support band Hardwicke Circus were invited back onto the stage. What stood out to me, was just the sheer fun that was being had upon the crowded stage, and how that emitted into the audience. It’s easy to see why Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes have retained such a devoted following of fans. A set lasting over two hours left me feeling elated, having heard a selection of my favourite songs and having danced the night away to some of the best music all the way from New Jersey. It was a spontaneous show which included a looseness, yet professionalism only comparable with the likes of The E Street Band. I’m so thankful that I decided to attend, and look forward to another show if and when they return to the UK in the future.

Rachel Harms

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New, independent writing, ‘Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley’ documents the journey that captures the culture of travelling to Europe watching football, from the inspiration of Springsteen to a sport where money is valued alongside glory. It is available to preview for free and download in full for less than a bottle of beer at Wembley Stadium from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes,
Kentish Town Setlist – Thursday 22 June 2017:
Love On The Wrong Side Of Town
This Time It’s For Real
All I Needed Was You
Passion Street
Livin’ With The Blues
Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday
Harder Than It Looks
Walk Away Renee/Up On The Roof
Without Love
Key To The Highway (with Gilson Lavis)
Strange Strange Feeling
Talk To Me
All I Can Do
Not That Lonely
Summertime/The Fever
Ride The Night Away
Words Fail Me
I Don’t Want To Go Home/Spanish Harlem/Sherry Darling
Together Again
Having A Party
Vocals/Harmonica – Southside Johnny
Keyboards – Jeff Kazee
Guitar – Glenn Alexander 
Bass – John Conte
Drums – Tom Seguso
Trumpet – Chris Anderson
Saxophone – John Isley
Trombone – Neal Pawley