JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

June 16, 2011
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap
Vienna, VA USA
Review by Joe Hunter
Photos by Craig Hunter Ross

Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes - Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, The Smithereens

Two of New Jersey's finest (and longest running) musical institutions performed a double bill at Wolf Trap's Filene Center, The Smithereens along with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The Smithereens started off their hour long set with "Behind The Wall Of Sleep" from "Especially For You", the album released in 1986 that put them on the map. Material was then played from all eras of their career including back to back performances of "Only A Memory" and "House We Used To Live In" (which was interestingly fused with "Sparks" by The Who) from their classic "Green Thoughts" album up to their newest release aptly titled "2011".

Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio's voice was in fine form and was backed up superbly by solid performances from lead guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion (the only member not part of the original lineup that formed 31 years ago). As expected, they received the greatest crowd response from their closing number "A Girl Like You" but the audience received an unexpected surprise when the band snuck in snippets of "Get Together" by The Youngbloods and "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who (which Pat turned into an audience singalong) before returning to and ending the song. Having not seen them live since the "11" tour 21 years ago, I was surprised to find that their classic-era material has definitely stood the test of time and they certainly deserve their place as one of the all-time power-pop band greats.

After a short intermission, Jon Lyon AKA Southside Johnny and his 8 piece Asbury Jukes took the stage and with the opening number "This Time It's For Real" immediately began firing on all cylinders and took the audience through a 100 minute set spanning from their most recent 2010 release "Pills And Ammo" back to the bands origins in the mid-70s. "Love On The Wrong Side Of Town" featured some great harmony vocals from keyboardist Jeff Kazee, a cover of Little Steven's "Forever" had Johnny removing his sport coat and rolling up his sleeves to really dig in and by the time they broke into "Talk To Me" from the landmark "Hearts Of Stone" album they had really found their groove and the audience was right there with them.

While the band was tight throughout, they also possessed a spontaneity onstage that made you wonder where they would take you next. The best evidence of this was about half an hour into the show where during a brief moment of dead air in between songs a fan yelled out "WALK AWAY RENEE". While most artists would either ignore it or comment that it would be played later in the set (or that it wouldn't be played at all), Johnny's response without a moments hesitation was, "Walk Away Renee? 1 2 3 4" and the band IMMEDIATELY started playing the song, a testament to how well rehearsed the band was.

Even a violent thunder and lightning storm that materialized towards the end of their set (which was audible and visible to everyone in attendance at the outdoor amphitheater) didn't throw off the band; in fact Johnny used it as an opportunity to break out into an impromptu crooning version of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" much to the delight of the crowd. Had it not been for the 11PM cutoff time imposed by the venue, the show would have undoubtedly ran far longer as there was plenty of energy to spare from both the audience and the band to have successfully kept it going.