Southside Johnny may not have Sam Cooke's voice or Bruce Springsteen's genius, but he sings their songs with a strong sould voice and the apparent convicition that his whole life is riding on every song. Last night, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes hit the Merriweathr Post Pavilion stage at a feverish pitch with the Supremes' "Stop in the Name of Love." From there, the show built through songs by Aretha Franklin, the Drifters, producer Steve Van Zandt and guitarist Billy Rush into the kind of communal frenzy that rock and roll always promises but too rarely delivers.
None of their records even hints at the power they displayed last night. Billy Rushhs lyrical guitar phrases, Richard Rosenberg's falsetto vocals and Edward Manion's booming sax all pushed the show beyound mere professionalism. All 11 members played as if possessed; Southside Johnny himself sang each song as if actually in the romantic crisis the lyrics suggested.
In the opening set, Washington's own bar band, the Catfish Hodge Band, filled the pavilion with its authoritative boogie-woogie blues. The septet stretched and squeezed its syncopation with a skill few pavilion acts have matched. Both Hodge and Dixie D. Ballin belted out blues ballads with a new maturity. The band added considerably to the evening, and the pavilion would be wise to book more local acts.