SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Southside Johnny and the Poor Fools’ T-shirts and posters bear a simple mantra -- no rules, no fences. It’s a fitting motto for the quintet, where each band member holds a different instrument almost every song and several different musical themes are explored.
Friday’s performance at South Orange Performing Arts Center was no different. The New Jersey-based group played for nearly two hours, touching on old favorites from frontman Johnny “Southside Johnny” Lyon’s repertoire as well as several unique cover songs from several different genres and eras.
Lyon and his band settled in nicely with the intimate SOPAC crowd as the group opened with the Buck Owens song “Together Again.”
The crowd was treated to a few of the Asbury Jukes’ classics early with “Lead Me On” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” both featuring beautiful piano melodies from longtime Juke, Jeff Kazee.
Unlike the Jukes, the only horn you’ll find in the Poor Fools is a trombone, played by Neal “The Dude” Pawley. The Dude is a multi-instrumentalist who played mandolin, banjo, drums, as well as six- and 12-string guitars throughout the night. He also assumed lead vocal duties on Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go” and the Bo Diddley classic “I Can Tell,” which got a rousing response from the audience.
Crowd favorites included “I Don’t Want To Go Home” which immediately preceded “The Fever,” a Springsteen-written song made popular by Southside Johnny. Both songs were re-worked to sound fresh and new. “The Fever” melded Lyon’s vocal talents with the splashy jazz drumming of Pawley and walking bass lines of John Conte to create an interesting, lounge-like feel.
The band played three songs for encore, two off of their full-length release from earlier this year, "Songs From The Barn." They closed the night with “Talk To Me,” another Springsteen-penned number made famous by Lyon.
Southside Johnny and The Poor Fools will take their tour on to the next venue where they’ll continue surprising audiences and taking chances on stage.
No rules. No fences.
The reviewer is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.