Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes Heat Up the Kent Stage
Jersey boys close Kent Blues Fest with memorable performance
In recognition of the Kent Blues Fest, the group featured a number of blues classics early in their set. Southside clearly loved the opportunity to play some different tunes, and he sang and played harmonica with passion.
Things kicked into higher gear when the group started digging into the hits. Songs such as Better Days, Love on the Wrong Side of Town and Talk To Me had the crowd up, dancing and singing. A smoldering version of The Fever, written by Bruce Springsteen and given to Southside Johnny, was another highlight.
During the slow-burning Living with the Blues, from the Messin’ With the Blues CD released in 2000, Southside Johnny told the rapt audience a humorous tale of unrequited love and mistakes made. Fan favorites such as Without Love and I Don’t Want to Go Home kept the energy level high.
Mike Grigaliunas traveled all the way from his hometown of Bayonne, NJ, to see the Jukes in the rare small hall setting. “I drove 435 miles to see this show, and it was great,” Grigaliunas said. “It’s real rock 'n' roll — fun, sweaty and even a bit sloppy at times.”
The Jersey native, who learned about the show on the Southside Johnny website, loves the spontaneity of a Southside Johnny concert.
"Their set list is really only a bunch of suggestions," Grigaliunas said. "They wind up doing whatever they feel like at the time."
Before the concert, Southside Johnny took time to attend a pre-show party at the Water Street Tavern. A group of about 30 hardcore fans greeted the singer, posed for photos and got autographs.
Water Street Tavern owner Mike Beder, who has seen the group perform numerous times, ranks the Kent show as one of the best. “The show was fantastic,” Beder said. "Southside and his crew couldn't have been nicer, and they left it all on stage."
After two hours and two sweaty encores that had the crowd exhausted and exhilarated, Southside and company said farewell, the house lights came up and the recorded music started. But the enthusiastic audience kept clapping and begging for more.
And the faithful were not to be denied. The band returned to the stage for a raucous version of the Sam Cooke classic Having A Party, which left fans beaming ear to ear as they walked out into the warm night.