SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Southside Johnny Lyon is best known for delivering his own brand of soul, R&B, rock and blues that has made his Asbury Jukes the essence of the Jersey Shore sound. Over this past year, the New Jersey rock icon has embarked on a new project that delivers some of the singer’s favorite under-recognized songs and obscure covers. Presented in an acoustically-minded live stage “throwdown” billed as Southside Johnny and The Poor Fools, they bring their party of a show to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) this Friday, September 27.
Southside Johnny and The Poor Fools have released their first highly-acclaimed CD, Songs From the Barn, featuring six original tracks written by Lyon and longtime collaborator Jeff Kazee, along with their versions of songs by Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, Bo Diddley, Lucinda Williams and Alvin "Shine" Robinson.
Backed by Jeff Kazee, Jukes bassist John Conte, Billy Joel guitarist Tommy Byrnes and Asbury Jukes trombonist/multi-instrumentalist Neal “The Dude” Pawley, The Poor Fools’ project is a “stripped-down, up-close-and-personal musical joyfest.” The band often plays with special guests such as Soozie Tyrell (Bruce Springsteen), G.E. Smith (Saturday Night Live/Dylan), Andy York (John Mellencamp) and J. Geils.
For this project, Lyons has decided to share the frontman duties, “getting everyone out of their comfort zone,” as he put it. Rotating singing and instrumentation roles among his fellow Fools keeps the sound fresh and full of variety Lyons even straps on a guitar himself in the band for the first time in years. “I lost the feeling in my fingers many years ago,” he says - “But I promised myself one day I was going to accept the challenge of playing guitar in a live setting and that time is here,” he adds, laughing: “With this great, great group of musicians ready to cover up my mistakes.”
The notion of putting acoustic musicianship and rare songs that may have never quite fit the Jukes’ repertoire on the front-burner is an idea that has been on Lyons’ mind for years. Putting on such a show at SOPAC is the right move. An intimate setting with stellar acoustics is just perfect for a show like this.
“With the Jukes, you’re out there every night leading this great rock n’ roll circus, giving it everything you’ve got, but still…you know there are songs you long to play, songs you always wanted to do, but don’t quite fit in,” says Johnny. “It might be great covers you always wanted to pull out, songs buried deep in your sacred bottom drawer, songs you forgot, even, that you’re dying to do up there - in a different format maybe - songs that have been whispering to you over the years to have their ‘day’ on stage. The Poor Fools is the forum for us to do this kind of material live, and enjoy it with all these wonderful musicians and intimately, with our great audience.”
Pianist and vocalist Jeff Kazee puts it, “Johnny is the most musically generous guy in the world. I believe the thought of having an acoustic-ish working band is something he's had down on his bucket-list through the years. Southside genuinely likes the way that each of these hand-picked musicians play and sing - and he encourages us to lead each other into uncharted territories, and in front of an audience!”
For tickets, contact SOPAC at 973.313.ARTS or visit SOPACnow.org.