Friday, March 20, 2015

Southside Comes to Pittsburgh

I ordered the tickets as soon as I saw Southside's concert on the his website's calender. I watched with envy all the East Coast fans enjoying one concert after another this winter, with the Youtube videos of joking and great music. March nineteenth loomed on the horizon. I even took vacation to coincide with the Warrendale, PA concert.
Some personal things came up that we decided not to stay at a new motel in Cranberry overlooking the Chik-Fil-A and Smokey Bones.  Still the tickets bought guaranteed the evening of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. We enjoyed dinner at the Chik-fil-A, on a little warmer last day of winter- no snow, clear and dry.
We had never been to Jergel's before, since we're not much at concert goers. The doors opened at six and we arrived shortly after, just before the purple touring bus trailing a U-Haul maneuvered the tricky hilly driveway to the back. My husband handed them the tickets and became fluorescent green bracelet tagged. Then we wandered around. How did this place get so crowded in ten minutes with people eating food already? We suspect there is more to this venue.
Finally, we perched above the stage. No chairs against this part of the railing, although chairs dot several spots- no backs on the chairs, though. I'm excited because we can see into the green room and I watch the band go back and forth. I watched them set up the small stage. Finally, I see Johnny. My husband points him out, first. He tests the mikes and talks at the keyboard. The horns warm up.
An opening act proves better than we expected, but I want to see Johnny. He bursts into the scene on the performer throwing papers from the balcony, scolding him, and then rushes back to the room. I never liked the phrase Pennsyltucky and this man used Pittennsyltucky and talks really fast. But he's been performing since 1964, so what do I know? The locals love him. My husband quipped if he had an a few beers he may have enjoyed him more. His music was great, I must admit.
Finally, the show starts but with a bit of a down beat, as they are introduced as Southside Johnny and his Dukes. Johnny remarks, "Forty years and we're still Dukes." But Better Days are coming. Do we seem so depressed in Western PA and eastern Ohio, that he chooses that song to start the concerts here? But I love the song's hope, and we clap.
Johnny buoyed by enthusiastic fans bounces out the runway and invites a few on the stage with him during the first song. Security freaks. One of the women removed spills some beer. Johnny then refers to that area as the pit of demons. Later though he sends his saxophonist, John Isley out there. Then John himself returns for Talk to Me, raising an eyebrow when one of the audience participants sings really well. Take that mike away from him, Johnny doesn't say, but I pick up the joke.
During Tango till They're Sore, I can't tell if it is part of the act or if Southside is tired and not quite up to performing. I like to conclude it is part of the song, as he rallies to his joking self. I do think how long that drive from Jersey is, and he didn't have much time to rest before the show.
During the sax solo of Walk Away, Renee, a man in the front row fans John Isley with a gold towel, yes, Pittsburghers, a Terrible Towel. Then he throws it to John and John waves it. Here we go! Great local touch, and we love it.
As usual, here, when Southside pulls out the oldies and the favorites, the crowd comes alive with The Fever, Trapped Again, I Don't Want to Go Home and Working Too Hard. In that set, he reveals he has a real fever and a toothache, the bus driver showed up late and his boss kicked the dog-Oh, all right, I added that last part. He didn't want to complain or tell a long sad story and he didn't. After Working Too Hard and they walked not only off the stage, but to the room off the balcony, we still clapped and whistle and cheered, not giving up. One encore with the one we had to sing, Having a Party, loving it.
We sensed Southside meant it when he said, he was going to lie down on the bus. No mingling tonight, although after standing for five and a half hours, my husband just wanted to sit. I guess we're not as young as we used to be. But Johnny for being sixty six, does not look like it at all and even with all his problems yesterday, he put on a energetic show. I think also he missed the usual suspects from the East Coast.
And this old couple stopped at our usual eatery at night, Eat-N-Park, a Pittsburgh original. Grilled stickies with extra syrup and a Pittsburgh turkey sandwich- coleslaw and fries, cheese and grilled, as well, filled our table and tummies. I finished mine off with a Smiley cookie.
With the minor disappointments, last night was still a thrill for me. Worth the wait and of course, the hearing the performance of some of my favorite music. And tonight, I can hear the House of Blues concert in Cleveland on Youtube. So if you want to hear for yourself what this band of forty years is all about, tune in. I hope Johnny feels better tonight.

Good- bye till next time.

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