Story & Photographs by Diane Fleischman

The wait is over.  Five years ago, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes performed at Musikfest Café.  Saturday night, a full house welcomed them back as they made it one big party. 

Energy levels flipped to high from the first song, “Don’t Waste My Time”, as it started with prominent drum lines and the blast of three horn players, often swinging during the set.  The song, was the first of four featured from his 2015 release of “Soultime”. 

Somewhere around the fifth song, John Lyon (Southside Johnny) took his sunglasses and pin stripe jacket off, now donned in a green Dr. Seuss’s Grinch tee shirt and jeans, and it was time to kick this party in high gear.  The audience felt the beats to “Cadillac Jack”, and the band played on with a segway to “Jingle Bells” at the end of the song.  Throughout the set there were several interludes of holiday songs thrown in as brief snippets.  For Lyon was full of holiday cheer and happiness despite the Grinch attire. 

And very well may be a part of Lyon’s humor, somewhat sarcastic, but always funny.  Lyon provided plenty of banter, as in one moment he joked to the crowd, “Yeah, Lehigh Valley, the winter’s coming. The cold, the gray skies, and the snow. And where I live, in New Jersey, it’s going to be sunshine every day.  Yes it is, yes it is.” 

The home and origin of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes is northern New Jersey.  While band members have gone through incarnations as the Jukes for the last 40 years,  the heart of their music remains the same.  Some may call it Jersey soul, the Asbury Park sound, or the sounds of memories of summers gone by and boardwalks.  Either way, the influences of Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Van Zandt ring true through the music. 

Back on stage, Lyon performed several cover songs, “Walk Away Renee”, with great harmonies, and two Springsteen songs, “Sherry Darling” and “The Fever”. Crowd favorites included:  “Talk to Me”, “Trapped Again”, and “All the Way Home”.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a party without “Party”, which closed the set, as all band members huddled around two microphones and sang the beginning accapela. 

During the show, Lyon pitched “Soultime” to the crowd, and threw a cd out to the audience to a lucky fan.  He commented, “it could change your life.”  As Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes continue as a hard working band touring into 2017, their endurance sustains.  This Lehigh Valley crowd was ecstatic for the group’s return. 

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