Review: Southside Johnny’s soulful Stone Pony show (with setlist)

Southside Johnny at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Friday night.

Southside Johnny at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Friday night.

“This next song is a soul song,” said Southside Johnny, introducing “Talk to Me” at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, Friday night.

He was right, of course, though he could have added: “The way I sing, anything I do is a soul song.”

Or, to put it another way: It wouldn’t be wrong to call pretty much any Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes concert of the last 40 years a “Soultime! Dance Party” — classic soul has always been a big part of their sound — but by using that title for their Friday and Saturday concerts at the Pony this weekend, they are signalling that (1) they’re going to emphasize their 2015 album Soultime! and (2) they’re going to play more of the old soul songs than usual.

And so you got, Friday night, a show that really reminded you of their status as “The World’s Greatest Bar Band,” with fiery renditions of songs like “Chain of Fools,” “It’s All Over Now,” “I’m a Man” (a funky version of the Spencer Davis Group hit, with keyboardist Jeff Kazee on lead vocals) and “Broke Down Piece of Man” (a Sam & Dave-style duet by Johnny and Kazee).

Johnny was in good voice and good spirits — “It’s good to be alive, even in New Jersey in February,” he said at one point — and showed, on ballads such as “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “Hearts of Stone” and the 1969 David Ruffin hit “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me),” that he knows something most “American Idol” contestants don’t: It’s not about proving what a powerful voice you have, it’s about taking your time and building to something.

There were plenty of Jukes classics in the setlist, including “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and “This Time It’s for Real.” Introducing “Love on the Wrong Side of Town,” he said it was “written by a very soulful man from Middletown, N.J.” (i.e., Steven Van Zandt).

It’s become a tradition for Southside to present special theme shows at the Pony in February. One of them, last year, was an evening of Springsteen covers. At Friday’s show, in addition to the Springsteen-written “Hearts of Stone” and “The Fever,” Southside sang “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” a great showcase for his horn section as well as a song that fit the theme of the show exceptionally well.

They haven’t made a big deal about it, but this year marks the 40th anniversary of the debut Jukes album, I Don’t Want to Go Home. “I first sang this song 40 years ago, on this stage,” Southside said, introducing the title track on Friday. “And 40 years later, I still love singing it.”

Saturday’s show will be broadcast live on, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Southside promised, during Friday’s show, that Saturday’s setlist would be very different.

Here is Friday’s setlist:

“Chain of Fools”
“Don’t Waste My Time”
“I Played the Fool”
“Little by Little”
“Love on the Wrong Side of Town”
“I’m a Man”
“Don’t Call Me Baby”
“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”
“It’s All Over Now”
“Without Love”
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-out”
“Words Fail Me”
“Broke Down Piece of Man”
“My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)”
“The Fever”
“Walking on a Thin Line”
“This Time It’s for Real”
“I Don’t Want to Go Home”

“I’m Not that Lonely”
“Talk to Me”
“Hearts of Stone”

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