Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Agora (2006)

The Cleveland Agora

2 Dec. 2006

Last Saturday it was another of the semi-annual Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes concerts that we have here in Cleveland, one each summer and one around the holidays, but the first one in a long time at the Agora. The Jukes had been doing their winter shows at the now closed Odeon, so they returned to the Agora this year, also as a part of the club’s 40th anniversary year, last appearing there during the club’s 30th anniversary.

The “new’ Agora, which has been at it’s present sight for almost twenty years, will always be the ‘new’ Agora to many because of the place the “old” Agora, the one on East 24th, will always play in the hearts of the generation of rock and roll fans who came of age at the club. And probably no other out of town band who was an Agora regular at the “old” club captured a place in the hearts of those now mostly forty something fans than Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

I have seen Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes over the years at places besides Cleveland, and the shows aren’t quite the same. The audiences are always quite receptive, however, they don’t treat the band with adoration worthy of royalty. And the set lists, although they will always contain some gems from their glory days, are usually balanced with newer material and a few blues classics. And the shows in other markets don’t always end with dozen of women up on the stage single along with the band while trying to also hug and kiss their favorite Juke. And these women, although still attractive, aren’t teenagers any more.

Southside shows in Cleveland follow the same scenario time after time, with the band coming out with a song list that sooner or later, mostly sooner, gets trashed as the band ends up playing the songs off their first five albums that audience came to here. Southside and his band aren’t any oldies act, they put out a pretty good blues/rock album every year or so, and tour extensively including a four to six week gig in Europe every year. They also spend a fair amount of time in their Northern New Jersey home base were many of the Jukes are in demand as studio musicians. But it just seems like every time they are here, sooner or later it turns into 1980 as one classic Jukes tune is played after another.

And not that that is a bad thing. The band did get a few new tunes in this time, for example their cover of the Stones’ “Happy” which made it on their last studio album Into the Harbor, to let us know they aren’t sitting on their past laurels. However, when the old songs came out and are still played with fresh enthusiasm and skill, then there is still magic between the now fifty something blues singer and the audience that first embraced him back when the world was a lot younger for all involved.

Oh, there once was a time…and for a few hours Saturday night there was again as songs such as “Trapped Again,” “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” “Take It Inside,” “Without Love,” “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” and “Paris,” were played with as much skill and soul as they were when they were first played on that fabled stage on East 24th Street. And, of course, the audience loved it. From the opener “Under the Sun,” a gem from the long lost At least We Got Shoes album, to last encore of the audience participation version of “We’re Having a Party,” the love affair between the band and its loyal following here in Northern Ohio continued.

Keeping with the 40th Anniversary theme, local 70’s icons Wild Horses opened up with a short but solid set and did exactly what an opening band should do: they were good, got the audience ready for the headliners, and didn’t play too long. They played some solid classic rock and closed with their own claim to fame “Funky Poodle.”