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Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Wellmont Theater, Montclair, NJ: Everybody was singing April 21, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Southside Johnny.
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Southside Johnny and The Jukes returned to the Wellmont for a night of unabashedly emotional rock & soul.







Johnny set the tone for the evening at the start by announcing a song in tribute to “an honest musician.”  The band slammed a home run with their fierce version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.  I liked the way they bracketed the show with Band songs opening and closing the main set, and then Ophelia as the penultimate encore.  Ironically, Levon Helm’s next show was to have been at the Wellmont before he collapsed and went into his final decline.  You could almost feel his spirit hovering over the stage.  God rest his soul.

New horn man John Isley, replacing both Joey Stann and Ed Manion on tenor and baritone sax, acquitted himself well.  Johnny always finds the perfect musician for each part in the ensemble. 


Jeff Kazee left the keys to help out on the drums early in the set.




During the unison horn section solo in Without Love, Johnny asked the guys to change it up and play the solo as a round; they fell into a near-flawless rendition on the spot.  Truly impressive.



After the best version of Till The Good Is Gone I’ve yet heard, Johnny asked a fellow in the crowd for requests.  Someone else responded, Johnny immediately told him, “Shut up, I didn’t ask YOU!”  The original questionee asked for “Everything,” as in I Want Everything, whereupon Johnny asked the band to play everything they know, each member playing something different.  The resulting cacaphony, with familiar melodies weaving in and out of the din, was both hilarious and brilliant.

This was something other than the usual Jukes show; it left me with both the usual huge grin and a bit of a tear in my eye for old Levon.  I thank the stars that we still have a few honest musicians like these guys on this plane.



Here’s the set list: 

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Broke Down Piece Of Man, Woke Up This Morning, I Played The Fool, You Can’t Bury Me, Help Me, Walk Away Renee, This Time It’s for Real, Paris, Tango ‘Til They’re Sore, Love on the Wrong Side of Town, Till The Good Is Gone, Everything (each band member playing every song they know all at once), Talk To Me, Harder Than It Looks, Gladly Go Blind, Forever, Strange Strange Feeling, Without Love, All Night Long, Princess of Little Italy, Chest Fever / The Fever, The Weight

Encore: I Don’t Want to Go Home, We’re Having a Party

Second encore: Ophelia

Third encore: Hearts of Stone

More photos are available here.


The Pines, City Winery, NYC: Into the sky where falling stars disappear March 29, 2012

Posted by Anton A in American music, Pines.
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The Pines are, at the core, the duo of Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt. (For those who follow pedigrees, Benson is the son of Bo Ramsey, who produces recordings and plays guitar for folk legend Greg Brown.) The two hail from Iowa and are currently based in Minneapolis. A rotating cast fills out the band; five musicians enhanced their latest album, Dark So Gold. For this tour, the duo played acoustic guitars and were accompanied by Benson’s brother Alex Ramsey on keyboards.

The Pines’ music is haunting and hypnotic. They sing of fading Midwestern landscapes, darkling skies over endless farms in the spaces that their characters inhabit. Their voices and guitars harmonize brilliantly, as if to emphasize that something always shines, however fleetingly, in the night. Their lyrics evoke a world of constant change where relationships that may or may not last are the only saving grace.

This is not a band that will leave you stomping and grinning; they’re nonetheless compelling. They touch something real in every song with the textures that they build from such sparse elements. They’re creating the most interesting folk-based music that I’ve heard in a long time. I won’t hesitate to see them again.

Southside Johnny & The Poor Fools, Mexicali Live, Teaneck, NJ: When the night has come March 17, 2012

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Southside Johnny brought his Poor Fools to Mexicali on Saturday night. What a joy for us fans, to be able to see musicians of this caliber in such an intimate setting.




From the first notes of an imaginatively bluesy version of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, we were led on a journey through songs familiar and unknown, versions old and new.



Who would expect a hard rocking version of I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight? Johnny and the Fools have an uncanny knack for twisting a song around and making it their own.



As usual, the Fools were all over their various instruments.




It’s a treat to see Johnny playing guitar, expanding on his lead singer role with the Jukes.




I love the way they each take turns on the drums, bringing their own styles to the beat of each song.



This marked the first night that I’ve seen John Conte pick up a banjo.




Johnny and the Fools gave us another rousing evening. There are more in my future, and to my mind that’s a good thing.





The set list:

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Love On The Wrong Side Of Town, Lead Me On, Postcards From Hell, Let’s Have A Party, Strange Strange Feeling, Down Home Girl, Can’t Let Go, Beneath Still Waters, All The Way Home, Ophelia, My Old Kentucky Home, Rosa, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Parchman Farm, Johnny Too Bad, Princess of Little Italy, Stand By Me, I Don’t Want To Go Home, Ain’t No Free, Promised Land, The Fever, Walk Away Renee, Mind Your Own Business

Encore: Trapped Again

More photos can be found here.

Soulfarm, Highline Ballroom, NYC: Shine a light March 7, 2012

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Soulfarm played the Highline Ballroom to mark the beginning of the Purim holiday. What a celebration it was! Well over half the audience was in costume; everyone had a splendid time.



The band is one of the most eclectic I’ve ever seen, drawing from traditional Hebrew music, rock, folk, blues and the occasional Rolling Stones cover, with a heavy overlay of jam-band ethos. The resulting blend is something I can only describe as gypsy psychedelia. They left my head spinning.

Noah Solomon Chase leads the band on guitar, mandolin and vocals. Mitch Friedman plays bass.




C. Lanzbom, on various guitars, is Noah’s musical partner; they’ve recorded several albums together apart from Soulfarm. Ben Antelis keeps the beat on drums and percussion.



Dave Eggar brings a unique instrumental voice to the band, playing some of the most blistering rock & roll cello you’ll ever hear.



This is a band with a truly distinctive sound and heaps of energy. Like any good young jam band, they’ll play all night if you give them the chance. They wore me out; after nearly three hours, they were still going strong as I staggered out of the club to catch a post-midnight train back to Jersey.

More photos are available here.

Early Elton Trio, Rockwood Music Hall, NYC: Seeds shall be sown in New York City February 25, 2012

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Folks who’ve been following along here have already met John Conte and Jeff Kazee, of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes and Poor Fools, and Rich Pagano, singer and drummer in Prisoners Of Second Avenue.  Not content with juggling so many projects, these three talents periodically team up as the Early Elton Trio.  Their name is pretty much self-explanatory; they re-create the earliest Elton John tours, when Elton first went globe-hopping as the head of a power piano trio along with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.


Jeff, of course, pounds the ivories.




John holds down the bass end




while Rich fires every song with his adroit drumming.




John displayed heretofore unknown skills on the mandolin for a heartfelt rendition of Country Comfort.



It was a night for reviving old memories, singing along and dancing to a host of fine old songs in a small, convivial room.  The Early Elton Trio attracts a friendly, enthusiastic crowd.  I look forward to their next gig.



The setlist: Ballad Of A Well Known Gun, Burn Down The Mission, Levon, Border Song, No Shoe Strings On Louise, Tiny Dancer, Son Of Your Father, My Father’s Gun, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters, Country Comfort, Dirty Little Girl, Madman Across The Water, Friends, Bad Side, Take Me To The Pilot.


More pictures can be found by clicking this link.

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.

Blue Coupe, R Bar, NYC: On flame with rock & roll March 17, 2011

Posted by Anton A in American music, Blue Coupe.
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On Thursday I had the chance to see three original founding members of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper rock the back room of a small bar on the Bowery for $10. How could anyone pass that up? What an outrageously wonderful St. Patrick’s Day treat!

Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard and Dennis Dunaway have been playing music together in various permutations for a couple of decades now. (Albert and Joe go back much further, of course, and all three have been friends since the 1972 Alice Cooper/Blue Oyster Cult tour that put both bands on the national map.) Joe performed with the Dennis Dunaway Project, was part of BDS (Joe,& Dennis plus original AC drummer Neal Smith}; Albert and Dennis sat in at various times with Joe’s first post-BOC band, the X Brothers.

For three years in the last decade this loose collective of musicians played a free springtime show in Union Square as part of the annual New York ASPCA Benefit. Last spring the Benefit went in another direction. This year, as Blue Coupe, Joe, Albert and Dennis het up the R Bar something fierce. I hope this marks a new spring tradition. Is it any coincidence that the next day was the warmest day of the year so far?

I arrived at the R Bar just before 9:00, which enabled me to catch the Blue Coupe sound check. The small crowd was treated to truncated versions of BOC classics I Ain’t Got You and Hot Rails To Hell, while the sound guy struggled with repeated power failures to half of the stage. Eventually he got everything working.

Low Society, a Texas blues-rooted outfit fronted by the strong, gritty voice of Mandy Lemons (close your eyes and you may be reminded of Big Mama Thornton or Koko Taylor), steamed up the room with a half-hour opening set.

A fairly efficient equipment change followed; Blue Coupe came on just after 10:00 and launched with the Alice Cooper hit Be My Lover. They played for nearly two hours, mixing up five songs from their excellent new album, Tornado On The Tracks, four classic BOC tunes and six AC songs. It was a blissful ride back and forth through four decades of music. Some of BOC’s best material was written by Joe and Albert; Dennis is a great songwriter as well. It’s no surprise that their new songs mesh seamlessly with the familiar AC and BOC tunes.

I’ve been a BOC fan since August 1972, when I went to an outdoor show in the Bronx on a whim, knowing nothing about them, and came away hugely impressed with how well they played their instruments. Joe and Albert have only gotten better over the years, with Joe returning to his original guitar playing after leaving BOC. From the years they’ve spent playing with Dennis, they’re all on a wavelength where they can take songs in unexpected directions, shifting gears and running off into bridges that come out of nowhere and always lead to interesting places. Imaginative chord progessions and striking tempo changes are their forte; it’s a thrill to see them bring their craft alive.

Lisa Winn, from Bouchard’s Outrageous Canadians (another of Albert’s projects), did a lovely job with her haunting vocals on Waiting For My Ship and rocking choruses on School’s Out.



There was also a pole dancer who enhanced a few select songs. I had the sense that she came with the venue rather than the band but I’m not entirely sure.



On Monday, Dennis Dunaway was playing to a glittering crowd at the Waldorf to celebrate the Alice Cooper band’s induction into the R&R Hall Of Fame. Three nights later he’s in a tny bar on the Lower East Side and I have the privilege of standing right by the stage, not six feet away, watching him play with two other master musicians.

These guys have still got the passion for what they’re doing. It shows in the devilishly catchy chords and melody in the Grammy-nominated You (Like Vampires), the intelligent arrangements of the new songs, and the fire they put into every performance. This is the kind of night that leaves me grinning and wanting to run through the streets shouting “I love New York!”

The main set list: Be My Lover, Burnin’ For You, Cities On Flame, Is It My Body?, Angel’s Well, Fallen Angel, Black Juju, Tornado Warning, You (Like Vampires), I’m 18, Waiting For My Ship, School’s Out, Don’t Fear The Reaper, Godzilla

Encore: Under My Wheels.

More photos are available here on my photobucket page.