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rock nyc Watches the Pandemic Era Southside Johnny Concert From A Car, Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Since the pandemic struck, live music has been pretty much absent from our lives, other than webcasts from artists’ homes. Among the shows I was supposed to have seen were Elton John at the Pru, Lucinda Williams at City Winery, and Steve Winwood and Steely Dan at PNC just this past week. And with virus resurgences around the country, I was wondering if we would have concerts in the foreseeable future, and if so, what form would they take? Would I be comfortable in an arena or a club with a large crowd, even if masked? Would the artists?

Yesterday I saw one way live music might return. And it was OK- not quite the same, but not bad. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes did a drive-in concert in the parking lot of Monmouth Raceway yesterday. It was sponsored by the Count Basie Theater. The idea was simple- stay in your cars, bring your own food, wear a mask to use the restroom. As we  arrived we were directed to a staggered parking spot so no two cars were next to each other. As for the masks, sadly this was not really enforced. What was especially galling was the number of uniformed security personnel who were not wearing face coverings. Way to set a good example!

Where I was parked, there was a car with a roof rack right between me and the stage, so viewing was pretty much confined to looking at screens, which were not really big enough for the size of the venue. Sound was not an issue as the concert was simulcast on radio. For an outdoor summer event, the setup had its advantages- on a hot humid day we were able to sit in our air conditioned car, and control the volume to our liking. Honking horns replaced applause.

As for the music, the Jukes did all the fan favorites. Johnny was generally in good voice when he wasn’t complaining about the sun being in his eyes. Some attempts to get the fans to honk in time to the music had mixed results. The band has a terrific horn section and the keyboard man and second vocalist was outstanding. Things did get a bit ragged at times. The key changes in “Having a Party” were pretty much disastrous. Who knows how much they’d been able to rehearse? The best songs were the ones written for the Jukes by Little Steven and Bruce: “The Fever”, “Talk to Me”, “Love on the Wrong Side of Town”, and “This Time It’s For Real”.

The six o’clock start time with gates open at 4 meant a long wait before the show, but we were snugly home by 9. Good for us old guys. There were threats of thunderstorms, but none materialized, and we still got a rainbow behind the stage. Perhaps a portent of better things to come.

Set List
1, Better Days (not the Bruce song)
2. I Played the Fool
3. All I Needed Was You
4. Spinning
5. Love on the Wrong Side of Town
6. Walk Away Renee
7. Cross That Line
8. Without Love
9. Broke Down Piece of Man
10. The Fever
11. Angel Eyes
12. Forever
13. It Ain’t the Meat (It’s the Motion)
14. Passion Street
15. Talk to Me
16. It’s Been A Long Time
17. I Don’t Want to Go Home
Encore
18. This Time It’s for Real
19. Having a Party

perhaps a portent of better times to come

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