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Southside Johnny & the Poor Fools, Sharp Theater, Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ: I got a soul that I won’t sell January 27, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Southside Johnny.
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Southside Johnny began a new performance project late last year, dubbed Southside Johnny and The Poor Fools. They’ve played ten shows now; more are scheduled in between Jukes gigs. The new venture delves into the sort of acoustic-electric roots rock / Americana that one might associate with The Band, Bob Dylan, latter-day Hot Tuna, and various Brothers acts (Wood Brothers, Felice Brothers). It’s both a departure from Jukes music and a natural extension of Johnny’s catalog.


With the Poor Fools, Johnny performs more songs by other artists than with the Jukes, as well as imaginative reworkings of his own material. The endeavor sheds new light on Johnny’s roots and adds perspective to the familiar tunes; the segue from Spanish Harlem into I Don’t Want To Go Home, for instance, lets you hear directly the relationship between the two songs, in particular the bass line.



The Poor Fools started out last year with current Jukes Jeff Kazee on keys




and John Conte on bass,





plus guitarist Tommy Byrnes (music director and guitarist with Billy Joel) and violinist Soozie Tyrell.

With Soozie off preparing for the upcoming Springsteen tour, Neal Pawley has stepped in from the Jukes to play guitar, mandolin, banjo, drums and occasional trombone.



Everyone in the Fools plays pretty much everything at some point in the evening; as my friend Mike said, these guys are “scary talented.”






They all took turns on the drums except for Johnny (it’s rumored that he has some talent even there but we weren’t to have that treat).



Johnny played bass on one song,





Tommy Byrnes hit the keyboards on a couple of tunes,




Jeff Kazee stepped out on accordion a few times….




It’s an amazing display of musicianship.




The set list:

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Postcards from Hell, Cross That Line, All the Way Home, Little Calcutta, Love on the Wrong Side of Town, Down Home Girl/Something You Got, Can’t Let Go, Aint No Free, Beneath Still Waters, Bartender’s Blues, Ophelia, The Fever, Spanish Harlem/I Don’t Want to Go Home, Umbrella in My Drink, Rosa. Comes to Me Naturally, Strange Strange Feeling, Trapped Again


Walk away Renee, My Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine and Dandelion Wine).

The Poor Fools are a quieter, more laid back experience than a Jukes show, but no less engaging or soul-satisfying. I can tell that this outfit is going to be as essential to my psyche as the Jukes are these days. I look forward to many more shows.


More photos, 75 in all, can be found here.


Prisoners Of Second Avenue, Hiro Ballroom, NYC: I know where I’m gonna go January 20, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Prisoners Of Second Avenue.
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Are Prisoners Of Second Avenue the best 1960s cover band on the planet? They’re certainly contenders in my book. Their repertoire is wide: Hendrix, Blind Faith, The Who, Buffalo Springfield, The Band, Mountain, Moody Blues – you name the band, chances are they’ve got a song or two up their sleeves. On Friday they played for hours to a packed Hiro Ballroom, on the lower level of the stylish Maritime Hotel.

The band are:

guitarist Jimmy Vivino, currently with the Max Weinberg Seven and, in the rest of his spare time, the top-notch Beatles cover band Fab Faux;



John Conte, bassist with Southside Johnny And the Asbury Jukes, also with Early Elton, an eclectic band that pays tribute to Elton John’s “power trio” days;



and Rich Pagano, drummer for Ian Hunter, Patti Smith and many others as well as Fab Faux and Early Elton.



The Prisoners got a boost last night from Catherine Russell, who added fiery vocals to Wang Dang Doodle, among others. Highlights from the core trio included an inspired version of Theme From An Imaginary Western; the Who’s Love Ain’t For Keeping segueing into Won’t Get Fooled Again, with Jimmy cleverly mimicing the synth part with adroit use of his wah pedal; and a rollicking rendition of Cripple Creek.

Prisoners Of Second Avenue don’t simply replicate the songs we know and love; they put their own spin on many of the tunes, shifting the tempo so that you aren’t quite sure if those often-familiar chords are actually going to lead where you think. They deliver a passionate, rousing tribute to the music that was in the air when I came of age. It’s nostalgia the way it oughta be. I hope that they play New York again soon.