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Pop Music Reviews : Dancing The Night Away With The Jukes

July 24, 1986|DON SNOWDEN

"You sweat here as much as anywhere else in the world, let me tell ya," said Southside Johnny Lyon, and that sentiment aptly summed up the bar-band aesthetic underlying his two-hour set at the Palace on Tuesday.

Vision and originality are secondary considerations for the nine-man group the Jukes, and the near-capacity crowd was happy to dance the night away to the staples from Southside's first few albums, his less-distinguished recent material and the '60s songs he sprinkled liberally through the set.

Lyon's allegiance to the frenetic dance stance and soul romance of classic Motown was counterproductive in the early going. He was far more effective when the tempo slowed and he could actually sing rather than shout over blaring horns and relentless backbeat. Miami Steve Van Zandt's "Some Things Don't Change" stood out because of an arrangement that, for once, stressed dynamics and variety over monochromatic energy.

The surprising strength of this new edition of the Jukes was in the vocal department. The version of "Walk Away, Renee" was a pedestrian Spector-sound retread musically, but Lyon and his backing singers (guitarist Bobby Bandiera, keyboardist Kevin Kavanaugh, bassist George Ruiz and drummer Steve Becker) transformed the fey longing of the original recording into a soulful epiphany.

Southside Johnny & the Jukes are a classic bar band with few aspirations beyond delivering value for money. Johnny himself is an unpretentious fan who clearly loves the music he performs--if they open a cheerleaders' wing at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Southside Johnny deserves to be a charter member.

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