Friday, August 8, 2008

Boot Tracker, July 3rd 2008, Southside Johnny Live at the Stone Pony

Southside Johnny has remained rock's best kept secret through out his career, operating on a level quite a few fans would have liked to have seen Springsteen operates. This year marked the 30th anniversary of Southside's greatest album, "Hearts of Stone." A birthday that was celebrated in much the same fashion as Springsteen celebrated the 30th anniversary of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" at the Count Basie theater. Though Rollingstone Magazine at one point elected the Miami Steve produced "Hearts of Stone" album as one of the seventies top 100 records, it never brought John Lyon the fame it should have. Together with Little Steven's "Man Without Women" it stands as one of the best blue-eyed Rock 'n Soul albums of all time. As Lyon commented during the show "Forever" winded up on Steve's album but was written for his. "Hearts of Stone" with most of its songs written by van Zandt, is as much vintage Miami as it is classic Southside Johnny. Though "Hearts of Stone" cemented Southside Johnny's reputation amongst hard core Jersey shore fans at the time, the album didn't sell well enough for Epic's tastes. Though I'm not sure how many copies Lyon actually sold of his album, I suspect that Southside Johnny got lost in the shuffle of the changing industry. By the seventies, local markets were no longer something major labels were interested investing in, Disco and mega sales were starting to dominate the scene, any artist failing to go gold was in danger of getting dropped.

Though "Hearts of Stone" has found a re-release on Legacy records, I doubt there will be a luscious 30th anniversary re-packaging from the people who own the masters to this fine album. So the Stone Pony performance with its broadcast on Sirius radio is probably going to be the only tangible mark of this fine album. But judging from this recording, Lyon gave one hell of a party. Though cynics may claim he swiped the idea from Springsteen's birthday batch for the "Darkness" album, this party was something else. Though it would be unfair to compare the shows, but from what I'm hearing Southside gave his audience a decidedly bigger cake. By playing a full show after the album 'recital' it sounds like Lyon wanted to stress that his brand of Rock and Soul has more than survived disinterest from the record labels. The taper of this show, Kathleen was kind enough to give me her impressions of the show;

The show at the Stone Pony was everything a Jukes fan could ask for. The weather cooperated - it was sunny and beautiful. There was an excellent opening act from Bob Burger. He was the perfect intro for the Jukes. He put on a good show. I knew he would break a string the way he was strumming.

Then came the main event and what felt like a marathon (officially 3 hours and 8 minutes according to the website). I knew that it would be special with the 30th anniversary of Hearts of Stone being played, but I didn't expect a beautiful acoustic section afterwards - and then a full concert after that. What a way to start the summer!

I personally was looking forward to the entire Hearts of Stone album being played after seeing the 30th anniversary advertised on the Jukes website. I was planning to go to the show anyway but that made it extra special. I am old enough to remember when that album came out and hearing it live and in person was a real treat. I didn't know if Bobby would be there but I hoped he would. Ralph is a great guitarist in his own right but, when Bobby hooked up to that amp,it made the show. He played like he had something to prove or he was just glad to be back home. His riffs were awesome.

Bobby is buried in the Bon Jovi band - he has an excellent voice but he doesn't sing as well as Jon - and his guitar skills are superb but his style is very different than Richie's. It's a no win situation for him - though I assume he's being paid well. His acoustic guitar work was superb during the acoustic set and his voice and Southside's blend together perfectly. He really shines with the Jukes where he simply can't with Bon Jovi.

Everything that these guys tried wasn't perfect. Ghost in This Town (with Bob Burger) is a George Jones song. About a minute and a half into it they figured out that they had started in the wrong key. John mentioned that they had only played it a few times - and he didn't want to hear any shit about it. It didn't work too well but it was really the only one that had major problems.

I personally loved the acoustic set - I wasn't expecting it and it was a real treat. Bobby's guitar and their two voices made a great interlude between the two main parts of the set. I assumed that the show was ended after the first encore - but no. John came back out and said something to the effect of having a great band when they wanted to come out and play some more - and they even made suggestions of stuff that had been missed. I have seen many Southside Johnny shows over the years - this one was extra special for many reasons and I'm very glad I didn't miss this historic concert.

Thanks to Kathleen's registration of the show we get to be part of the party. Now this recording will obviously not be of the same quality of the Sirius broadcast, but it is highly enjoyable none the less. The tape is extremely pleasant to listen to, especially considering it was taped outside, even though it is a bit rough and raggedy in some places. Kind of like a Southside Johnny show.

"Trapped Again"

MP3 File

Download the full show in mp3 here
A small request, use mp3s for personal use only. Keep them in your iPod or on your computer but never use a mp3 based CD in a trade. The quality of mp3s deteriorate rapidly every time a CD is ripped. Using high quality music files such as FLACs is essential in keeping the trading pool healthy.

Recording: 4- out of 5
Show: 5+ out of 5
Artwork: none

The show also saw a performance of Tom Waits' "Gin Soaked Boy" as an appetizer for Lyon's new album of Tom Waits covers. You can find Southside Johnny's new album, "Grapefruit Moon" through the Jukes store. Pick it up, you won't regret it.


Anonymous said...

Hearts of stone was voted in the top 100 albums by rolling stone for the years 1967 to 1987 not just the 70's.
What did Southside in was Disco and bands like styx, kansas reo speedwagon and kiss etc.were getting heavy radio play which made no room for Southside
it almost killed bruce too. Bruce was only moderately successful then. he made him self big by constant touring and putting on marathon performances as you know.

southside is also big in massachusetts and new hampshire where he has standing dates for shows each year.


Gary said...

It was an incredible night- Jukes played almost 3 full hours and everyone had fun.
We have the privialge of seeing LaBamba and the Loveman Mark Pender along with the guitar wizard Bobby Bandiera.
SS was in all his glory and his voice carried well throughout the show with only a small 10 minute break for some well deserved beverage!
All fans agreed that this was yet another true classic historic show and they continue to amaze.
They played HOS in its entirety as it was on the album with perfection and then broke into Forever a Little Steven song "that did not make that album but went on Stevens album instead"
So many highlights and hijinks and insults and fun and the Pony was overloaded.
Some of us were looking for Steven but he was on tour as that would have added so much to the HOS tribute-he shoulda been there.
A memorable night from not just the greatest bar band but a truely great band.
I do wish they would play the Convention Hall as that would have provided more comfort but being outdoors on a beautigul July evening was PERFECT enough!