May 27th, 2001 started off much the same as any other late spring Sunday I’ve spent in New Jersey with blue skies and sunshine providing the perfect conditions for a walk along the Shore.
However, this time it was also Memorial Day Weekend and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were scheduled to appear at the world famous Stone Pony – the band’s first appearance at the club since it re-opened for business twelve months previously. In addition, the occasion also marked the 25-year anniversary of the Jukes’ legendary 1976 Pony performance that was broadcast live on the radio – a show that featured Bruce Springsteen joining the band for We’re Havin’ A Party.
Club owner, Domenic Santana, set the 2001 Memorial Day Weekend festivities scene by decorating the landing area with palm trees and bistro tables. There was also a collection of twenty seven securely tethered red, white and blue coloured balloons waving around in the breeze that was coming in from the ocean, each balloon representing a year in the Stone Pony’s history.
Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan opened the show playing a set that featured songs from their excellent brand new CD, Rock and Roll Station. This was followed by an outstanding acoustic performance from Graham Parker that included some of his own material as well as a tribute to Joey Ramone.
Somewhere between Graham’s set ending and the Jukes’ set beginning, the air was filled with a deep reverberating rumble that could have been thunder except the skies were still blue at that point. It seemed to originate from the right hand corner of the audience and it was like a verbal Olympic wave that dispersed through the crowd akin to wildfire before it came bouncing back again, like a boomerang.
And what was the explanation for this audible phenomenon?
Someone had spotted Bruce Springsteen lurking in the VIP area at the side of the stage. The first rumble was a rapid-fire delivery of “Bruce is in the house” while the second was the questioning and disbelieving response as everyone said “Whaaat?” to one another! Needless to say the atmosphere suddenly became charged with an air of anticipation that shot right off the top of the expectancy scale… would history repeat itself?
After a painfully corny introduction – Ladies and gentlemen, girls and Buicks it’s Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – groan… Southside Johnny led the band onto the stage and they launched into their set like a band possessed!
There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on about this performance… it raced along like there was no tomorrow and yes, I have to say it was great to see the Jukes this fired up. As the band tore through the first half dozen songs that featured tracks from the sensational Messin’ With The Blues CD, I was unaware of the fact that behind the scenes, a considerable amount of close attention was being paid to the path of a tornado that was looming off the Asbury Park coast.
Southside Johnny was visibly concerned for the welfare of the audience but like rightful troopers, the show went on until Johnny suddenly said he needed help… some real help. “I don’t need small time help, I need big time help… and I figure if I’m gonna die on stage, I’m gonna take him with me!” he declared while pacing back and forth across the stage. And yes, as the tension mounted, Bruce Springsteen – sporting a red bandana under a Memphis Red Sox baseball cap – picked up a spare guitar and became an honorary Juke for the remainder of the show.
The audience went wild!
“Well now what?” asked Johnny amidst the euphoric cheering and Jeff Kazee responded instantly by striking up the familiar sounding intro to The Fever. This was closely followed by a frenzy as people squashed, crammed and craned to get a better view of yet another historic moment in Jersey Shore Rock and Roll.
The threat of the impending tornado was suddenly kicked into touch as Bruce rocked and rolled with the Asbury Jukes for the next forty minutes or so. Graham Parker – who had been standing watching the proceedings from the side of the stage – was beckoned onstage to join the line up. He was warmly welcomed by a version of one of his own songs New York Shuffle before Bobby ripped up the intro to I’ve Been Working Too Hard.
All too soon the show was over as We’re Havin’ A Party concluded the set, with Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen sharing the vocals just like they did back in 1976. Yes, history had repeated itself and one more magical night had been chalked up at the illustrious Stone Pony where witnessing Bruce turning up to jam, is considered by some, to be the ultimate Jersey Shore Experience.
As for the tornado… it had been heading directly for Asbury Park but at the very last minute it changed course and hit the Shore slightly further south at Manalapan causing a considerable amount of damage. As the Asbury Park Press reported the next day, “When Bruce hit the stage, the tornado ran the other way.”
Yep, it kinda makes you wonder…!
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
Stone Pony, Asbury Park May 27th 2001 – Special Guests: Bruce Springsteen and
Cadillac Jack’s # 1 Son
I Played The Fool
Love On The Wrong Side Of Town
Gin Soaked Boy
Talk To Me
Take It Inside
Tell ’em I’m Broke
You Don’t Know Like I Know
I Don’t Want To Go Home*
New York Shuffle/I’ve Been Workin’ Too Hard**
I Got The Feeling**
Chain Of Fools/Born On The Bayou**
Unchained Medley (Southside & Bobby a cappella/doo-wop)
Havin’ A Party**
* W/Bruce Springsteen
** W/Bruce Springsteen and Graham Parker