Even at the age of 73, Southside John “Johnny” Lyon lives up to his famous cover of Sam Cooke’s “Havin’ A Party.”
An attendee of his first post-COVID concert in Tampa Bay on Thursday night — who was staying onsite at the Hard Rock Hotel — told CL Tampa that Johnny and the current Asbury Jukes lineup spent that afternoon in the pool, drinking like if they were back in college. If the Tri-State Area weren’t known for the snide and questionable comments its citizens are responsible for, Southside Johnny’s less-than-sold crowd at the Hard Rock Event Center would think he’s been drunk.
New Jersey isn’t the only thing Johnny has in common with Bruce Springsteen, either. Like the Boss, he never plays the exact same set every night, and he gives fans 15 minutes after the scheduled start time to get beers, t-shirts, and in their seats. Kind of an act of consideration before he started making fun of some of the said fans closer to the scene.
15 minutes after show time, in true Springsteen form, Southside Johnny – dressed in a burgundy and white button down, blue jeans, red Chuck Taylors and Ray Ban sunglasses – led his seven pieces, The Asbury Jukes, to open with its jangly, but cheerful sounding cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Happy,” nearly a year after the mighty Keith Richards himself played it live about 15 minutes from the Hard Rock. He later dusted off a heavily edited version of “Save Me”, originally written by Steven Van Zandt. “I really screwed up,” Johnny admitted at the end, after keyboardist and musical director Jeff Kazee gave him the “wrong cue” during part of the song.
He dove into a muddled, but about average, set filled with track-level Springsteen covers (“All The Way Home,” “Talk To Me”), a few of his own (“Tell Me (That Our Love’s Still Strong)”, “Looking For A Good Time”), and all the smartassery you could want in a 73-year-old boy from Jersey. Whether it’s a discussion of how Hollywood, FL doesn’t hold the candle to the star-studded neighborhood of the City of Angels, or how guys take their women for granted much more than they should, there was always something ridiculous to laugh at, especially in the crowd.
“Which of these women is with you?” All three ? Shit, my boy. No wonder you need a rotational shoulder replacement. Luckily I can’t see the other actors.
“I could move here…but it’s that June-July thing.”
“We could do it in a mobile home somewhere. That’s all I can afford right now, on Route 27, Belle Chase or… what’s that other town? He thought and listened to suggestions before giving up and playing a closing harmonica solo on “All The Way Home”.
The larger scale of Tampa Bay’s live music scene was completely phased out this year. Bon Jovi and Frankie Valli have both called it quits, and Springsteen has announced he’s kicking off his 2023 Elite-Only World Tour at Amalie Arena. All we need now to make it even more eclectic is for My Chemical Romance to bring their reunion tour to Tampa at some point. After all, Gerard Way is also from Jersey, you know.
See our photos of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Hard Rock Event Center below.