BWW REVIEWS: Columbus Concert Offers a Homecoming of Sorts for Jukes' Kazee

Photo: Daniel Gonzalez

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes closed out the regular set with a blazing rendition of their standard "I Don't Wanna Go Home" at the band's March 9 appearance at the Southern Theatre (5115 21st E Main St in Downtown Columbus). However, pianist Jeff Kazee appeared to be very glad to return to one of the touchstone places in his career.

Kazee, who attended the Ohio State University, had a miniature Buckeyes football helmet on top of his keyboard. At one point during the show, the Lima native held up a scarlet towel from the Buckeyes' 39-38 win over Penn State that a fan gave him before the concert.

"I'm from Lima, the Paris of the Midwest," Kazee said, holding up the towel. "A fan gave this to me and it says 'Be Feared. Ohio State vs. Penn State, Oct. 28."

"And our sound man happens to be from Penn State," wisecracked John Lyon, also known as Southside Johnny. "So, if we suddenly lose sound on this side of the stage, you'll know what happened."

One of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' strengths is Lyon's ability to recruit talent. Kazee, the band's musical coordinator and Lyon's song writing partner and co-producer, joins a storied history of Jukes side men. Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen often sit in with the band and Little Steven, the late Clarence Clemons, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, and Patti Scialfa of the E. Street Band are among the alumni of the Jukes.

Kazee fits in with that group. While his name might not be familiar, Kazee has one of those "don't I know you from somewhere?" rock and roll faces. He was a member of Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra's and Late Night with Conan O'Brien's bands, toured with Bon Jovi, and was a side man for Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Smokey Robinson, Brian Wilson and Cyndi Lauper among many others.

"I'm really amazed at the talent of these guys. I look at them and think 'I can't compete with that," Lyon said as he surveyed his bandmates before adding wryly. "Then I realize I don't have to; they all work for me."

Lyon is also smart enough to spread the spotlight around to the other guys in the band. Each member of the band took their turn in the spotlight. Among the highlights of the show was the tight horn section of John Isley (saxophone), Neal Pawley (trombone) and Chris Anderson (trumpet). Their syncopation and their quirky choreography gave the band a look, hook and feel that was all their own.

Joining them were guitarist Glenn Alexander (who looked like a Ted Nugent clone), bassist John Conte, and drummer Tom Seguso. The six-member band ripped through a non-stop, two-hour set that included "Love on the Wrong Side of Town," "Passion Street," "This Time It's For Real," and "Talk to Me," before closing out the set with the Springsteen-penned "Fever" and the Jukes' closer, "I Don't Wanna Go Home."

Lyon's gravel growl vocals captured the moment of those songs, as well as putting his own stamp on covers of Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" and Sam Cooke's "We're Having a Party," the heart pumping finale to the show.

After the March 9 stopover in Columbus, the band has a seven-day layover before hitting Rhode Island and New York and then heads off to Sweden and Norway. As the band left the stage, one could only wonder how long it will be before Kazee has another homecoming in Columbus.

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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