|I Played the Fool|
That first show, I couldn't even persuade my friends to stay until the end; not that it was a bad show (I remember it being fantastic), but they wanted to get on the roller coasters. So, I tried to keep to the roller coasters closest to the stage, and have a memory of being on the loop-to-loop roller coaster, upside down, with the Mt. St. Helens sunset somewhere below me, and listening to Southside doing his "Sam Cooke" medley to close the show. It is one of my ultimate New Jersey memories, right up there, probably, with the attempt to get out of the parking lot that same evening and the lunar landscape ride up the New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours to get home.
|Setlist #1, before the show began. The actual setlist bore faint resemblance to it.|
|Elianna got an unobstructed view.|
|Setlist #1 lies, crumpled up, behind Southside; at least Setlist Man couldn't read it anymore.|
|Jeff Kazee during All the Way Home|
|Setlist #2 goes airborne.|
By 5 songs in, John had it figured out: "Don't you look at my setlist, motherfucker!," he yelled at Setlist Man. Whereupon he ripped the setlist off the amp to which it had been taped, crumpled it up and tossed it backwards. Meanwhile, the trumpet player was making a paper airplane out of another copy of the setlist.
I'd have to go to my picture of the setlist to try to figure out how much of what was played Sunday evening actually stuck to what was written down; seems to me that it was no more than a vague resemblance. What the band actually played, was a mix of the Steve Van Zandt and/or Bruce Springsteen songs that were Southside's early calling cards, along with a fair helping of more recent recordings, a Jeff Kazee number, and a balls-to-the-wall version of the Flirtations' Nothing But a Heartache.
At one point, John asked for a Detroit song to sing, but he ended up skipping it. Instead, he did a double-shot from Van Zandt's Men Without Women album, Forever and Until the Good Is Gone. When that album came out in 1982, many of us wondered how it would have been with Southside singing it; now we know (in 2011 Southside made a live recording of the entire album; my souvenir from the show was a CD of that recording).
As good as the rave-ups were, and there were plenty, many of my favorite moments of the evening were when John toned down the band and let the voices carry the moment. These included some nice harmonies for Without Love. and a gorgeous version of All The Way Home, for which Kazee came out front to play accordion. Of course, as Southside was singing the line "I'll Walk You All the Way Home," he might drop in an aside, such as "don't you have a car?"
|This was YOUR beer?!?"|
Then, there were the antics. At one point, Setlist Man had his bottle of beer on the stage. Southside moved forward, Setlist Man tried to move the bottle of beer back to a safe position. Uh.... NO. Southside saw it, and did exactly what I would have expected of him 30 years ago: He kicked that bottle over, spilling beer all over the front of the stage. Poor Setlist Man had to go buy another bottle.
For the most part, though, John played it straight, and the 2-hour show included most of the popular numbers such as I Don't Want To Go Home, Hearts Of Stone, The Fever, Trapped Again, Talk To Me, This Time It's For Real and his cover of Walk Away Renee, without much variation to the album versions. Setlist Man eventually got a setlist, and got it signed.
Toward the end of the show, John spoke to a college-age attendee standing next to me -- "whatever you do, don't pick up an instrument!" It was sort of joking, but not entirely: After 40 years in the business, here he was, playing to relatively few old fans (and some new) far from home, with a long bus ride directly back to New Jersey to follow. I don't envy John or the band that ride. I'm glad -- for me -- that he still does it, and that I now get to see him in Michigan with my family. Aaron says that good music doesn't come with an expiration date, and I'm happy he gets to witness some of my favorite music made fresh.
|Hello. My name is John and I wear Jockey underwear.|