Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Colonial Theatre

August 25, 2011 performance reviewed by Philip McTigue

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are legends in the rock and roll scene. For over thirty years they have been delighting audiences and recording music in their rhythm and blues horn driven style. These musical giants of the Jersey Shore influenced musicians from Bruce Springsteen to Bon Jovi and are still going strong today.

They have created over thirty albums, several EP’s, and a box set. They have performed thousands of concerts all over the globe. They possess a dedicated fan base and the band’s newest release, “Pills and Ammo,” is full of new material that is already getting rave reviews from fans.
The band opened with an older tune called “I Give You My Heart,” and right out of the box you knew you were in for a good night. Southside’s version of the golden oldie “Walk Away Rene” was outstanding with six of his musicians contributing background vocals. He led a rollicking version of Keith Richard’s “Happy,” shaking castanets like a man who was having a ton of fun.
Southside Johnny Lyon is 60; age clearly is not slowing him down. He is a whirlwind of rock ‘n roll, rhythm ‘n blues and soul inspiration, singing as if a man possessed with the spirit of Motown meets Jersey. His band consists of Jeff Kazee, keys; John Conte, bass; Tom Seguso, drums; Glenn Alexander, guitars; Billy Walton, guitars; Eddie Manion, part of Conan O’Brien’s house band and killer sax sideman; Chris Anderson, trumpet; Mark Pender, trumpet; and Neal Pawley, trombone. This high-energy eight piece band was tight and you got the feeling they could handle anything Southside threw at them.
He vamped a version of “Money That’s all I Want” and also did an impromptu version of “Lean on Me.” The band didn’t skip a beat. A classic version of the Springsteen song “Fever” closed out the regular set. The band was feeding off the energy of Southside who was feeding off the energy of the audience. It was the perfect storm for a rock ‘n roll show.
After two hours and two encores that had the crowd very satisfied, Southside and company said farewell, the house lights came up and you could tell the band left it all on stage, which left fans beaming ear to ear as they exited.

We patronized a nearby restaurant before the show; it was packed and had a good pre-concert vibe to it. It was nice to see Pittsfield so alive and vibrant. Coming from South County, we were looking forward to seeing the renovated Colonial Theatre. It did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful venue.


Bob Dylan appears with Joan Baez at Boy’s Club Pittsfield, MA

May 11, 2016, 2013 article by

Bob Dylan first performed in the Berkshires on August 17, 1963 as Joan Baez’s unannounced guest at the Boy’s Club in Pittsfield, one of three Berkshire Music Barn concerts that were held in Pittsfield that year to accommodate a larger audience than the Music Barn’s Lenox facility could. (The others were Al Hirt and Ray Charles.) It came in the midst of a crucial time in the parturition of Bob Dylan, cultural icon.

Bob Dylan spring and summer 1963

  • May 27 – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (his second album) released, containing such masterpieces as:
    • “Blowin in the Wind,”
    • “Girl of the North Country,”
    • “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Allright,”
    • “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall;”
  • July 6 – Dylan performed at a Civil Rights Rally in Greenwood, MS (the movie “Don’t Look Back” includes his performance that day of “Only a Pawn in their Game”);
  • July 24, 25, 26 – he performed five times at the Newport Folk Festival;
  • first week of August – New York to begin recording The Time’s They Are A-Changing
  • August 28, 1963 – he sang 3 songs at the March on Washington, two with Joan Baez.

Joan Baez introduces Bob Dylan at Pittsfield Boy’s Club, August 14, 1963

1963 Berkshire Music barn concert program
1963 Berkshire Music barn concert program
Berkshire Music Barn 1963 program; compliments of Billy Weigand[/caption]After writing that the capacity crowd received more than the price of their admission entitled them to when Baez brought on “folk singer and composer Bob Dylan, the hottest young man in the business…” Berkshire Eagle entertainment editor Milton R. Bass went on to write a succinct critique of Dylan’s performance that includes a sentence deserving of a place in the canon of Dylanology.

“His voice is not a pretty one, his guitar playing is just plain old banging away, but there is an intensity about him, a dedication, that forces one’s attention where it belongs.” Milton R. Bass, Berkshire Eagle

The songs Dylan sang that night were “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “Blowin in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall.” Baez had earlier sung “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Allright” and “With God on Our Side.” It would be a dozen years before Bob Dylan would return to the Berkshires, again unannounced, again with Joan Baez, but this time with the Rolling Thunder Revue, which descended upon Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge in Becket.


Bob Dylan show Mullins Center Nov. 19, 2010

Nov. 19, 2010 concert review by

Attending an episode of the Bob Dylan Show is like pulling your car over to the curb in the midst of an ordinary errand late in the afternoon of a drab day because you noticed something on the horizon and thought, Wow! that needs a closer look.

Because life is an accumulation of errands, and even when we’re on foot, or in flight, we spend our days inside cars that are the suit of clothes we wear, the style of slang we speak, the slate of politicians we let seduce us.

The Bob Dylan Show on the Friday before Thanksgiving, that maddening American holiday, at UMASS, Amherst, that architectural wasteland, was a most worthwhile detour. Bob Dylan at

The Scream, by Edvard MunchThe only comment we have for the management is: please make an effort to book the show into auditoria in every case instead of gymnasia, because it is all about the music, after all, and a big cement gym sucks as a venue for music, an observation the tunes themselves ratify by living an extra second up in the dusty distant rafters where they sound like an Edvard Munch painting looks.

All the more reason to be grateful for the gene that allows one to cultivate the appreciation of so ethereal a shape-shifting headliner as Bob Dylan, who pulls over to the side of the road way more often than you or I do.

This show demonstrated that the best of his songs can be boiled down to reveal a mere handful of notes – song cores that are both augur and auger; they have a dynamism that drills deeper to reveal more handwriting on the wall of your soul.

For all I know, being bereft of all musical ability, except for desktop drumming, this is no secret. Regardless, tonight I got the feeling that it might’ve been on the agenda, that Mr. Dylan and his crackerjack outfit set out to demonstrate just how simple, and joyful, his songs can be. Maybe they went out of their way tonight to reveal the simple dancing skeletons bedecked in a wondrous wardrobe of Mardi Gras costumes?

The sixteen performed tonight were a companionable mix with a range of ages that would be present at a typical Thanksgiving dinner: there were grandparents, adults, college kids, little kids, and babies.

And how ’bout them babies! Some born full-blown, like toddler Jolene, b. 2009 and already anchoring the #1 encore slot. It will be fun to watch her grow, to doff gowns and don guises, to cast her dancing spell my way.

Speaking of which, so too was Bob Dylan, born so much older than any of us. Witness the Witmark Demos, just released as volume 9 in the Bootleg series, 47 songs he recorded before turning 24, including one from tonight’s setlist.

If Dylan had got struck dumb in Tin Pan Alley way back then, today we’d still be marvelling at tunes like A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Thank God he didn’t, because tonight we got a sparkling rendition of it. Whereas he’s always been varying the vocal styling, now he’s added a whole suite of gestures, as if he’s been studying the young Al Martino.

The show started slow, chugging away from the station with an especially raspy singing of Gonna Change My Way of Thinking, a prosaic bit of testimony. He emerged from the between song blackout center stage but slightly askance to perform Shooting Star, another prayerful piece that he punctuated with a piercing harmonica coda.

Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, a lyrical masterpiece, was next, introduced by Dylan on guitar. Would love to have heard it again an hour later, because the band hadn’t started coloring outside the lines yet. Spirit on the Water, which at its best reminds you of roller rinks and polka dancing, was also too restrained, unlike the next one, Rollin’ And Tumblin,‘ from which point the show soared.

It featured Charlie Sexton’s stinging slide guitar, which seemed to limber his colleagues, and George Recile’s drumming, a force of nature that he can tame to modulated mayhem. The show was on. It will be remembered as the one where Mr. Dylan revealed a new facet of the song-and-dance man, appearing like the vocal soloist of your community orchestra, who has been coached to emote.

Besides near archival-quality renditions of Tangled Up In Blue, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Hard Rain, and Ballad of a Thin Man, the takeaway from this show was that the man who for decades has been lambasted for virtually ignoring the audience, now veritably pantomimes his songs!

It is not likely that he’s ever again going to be shooting the breeze with the audience, as we saw during the Rolling Thunder Revue down the road at Springfield, but it was fun to see this new wrinkle, another glint from a passing star.

It is too early to write his epitaph, but a good idea nonetheless to urge all the youngsters to catch the Bob Dylan Show while there’s still time for a glimpse of his ever-emerging refulgence.


Randy Weston African Rhythms Duo

May 29, 2010 concert reviewed by Ronald K. Baker.

Randy Weston at the Berkshire Museum May 29, 2010.Chalk up another stellar concert organized by, presented in an intimate, perfect venue – the Berkshire Museum’s Little Cinema auditorium. The museum’s 9-foot Steinway Grande piano got a good workout courtesy of the power and technique of the towering artist, Randy Weston, as he played his African Rhythms concert along with bass player, Alex Blake.

(Watch a video clip from the concert at

By way of introduction, Mr. Weston spoke of the spirit as being the foundation of all his music. Music is everywhere in nature, he said, and nowhere is that spirit more evident than it is in Africa. The concert opened with Blue Moses, a Moroccan piece that set the tone for the rest of the evening. After a free-flowing introduction, the bass came in and joined Weston’s thundering octaves and fifths as he milked the low range of the piano.

Alex Blake in concert at the Berkshire Museum, May 29, 2010.It turns out that bassist Alex Blake is a percussion section unto himself. His dominant foot stomping was tireless, commanding, and engaging. Against this obstinate continuum, he provided a mix of elemental drum sounds through a range of dazzling techniques. Subtle bongo sounds rippled from the fingers of his left hand tapping gently on the neck of his instrument. Louder accents and percussive pops sprang from the palm of his right hand as he slapped here and there along the entire length of the fingerboard. For the most exclamatory, he’d pluck the lowest string with such force that it created a resounding whack akin to the crack of a whip.

While accompanying Weston, Blake proved himself a repository of provocative rhythms, often strumming the bass as though it were a guitar. He coupled this technique along with double and triple stops in order to create chords, most notably in his solos. And he had one more trick up his sleeve, both figuratively and literally. He wore a smooth metal bracelet on his right wrist. Whenever he wanted a loud smack to punctuate a phrase, he would slap the lower part of the fingerboard with the bracelet simulating a rim shot on a snare drum. It clearly was yeoman’s duty, and, as Weston gazed at him bemused, the array of sounds Blake achieved was masterful. He threw himself bodily into each piece like a whirling dervish with an intensity that left him visibly winded. The audience erupted repeatedly into spontaneous applause.

Randy Weston’s playing seemed effortless in contrast; he was the picture of coolness in his understated, gray silk shirt, matching kufi cap, black slacks and wingtips sans socks. He was gracious guide introducing each work along with some tidbits of history of African music as well as of slavery. His compositions – exotic voyages – contrasted delicate, evocative passages with explosive fortissimos that filled the hall. Overall, his style recalls Ahmad Jamal more than it does Oscar Peterson.

But since his pieces are largely bereft of repeated melodies, his improvisations rarely drew applause, as even some of the hippest jazz listeners seemed scarcely able to discern the divergence of theme from variation. No matter. It made for rapt attention. And judging from his own appreciative smiles and self-effacing demeanor, Randy Weston probably would have considered clapping an unnecessary distraction anyway.


Bob Dylan cancels China tour

Here’s a fresh take on why Bob Dylan will not be playing in China this spring:


Dave Brubeck and Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble

Oct. 17, 2009 performance reviewed by Dave Conlin Read.

Dave Brubeck in rehearsal with Berkshires Jazz Youth EnsembleThe Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded the first million-selling jazz album fifty years ago, Time Out, which features Take Five and its unusual 5/4 time signature, and with Mr.Brubeck approaching his 89th birthday, which he’ll celebrate Dec. 6th at the White House while receiving the 2009 Kennedy Center honors, time has prominence in any Brubeck report. Now, and for a long time to come, hundreds of people will be remembering the time they heard the Dave Brubeck Quartet in a sold-out concert at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, including 18 kids who can tell about the time Dave Brubeck sat in with them on “Take the A Train.”

The concert began with a teriffic set of mostly Duke Ellington compostions played by the Berkshires Youth Jazz Ensemble, 17 Berkshire county high schoolers and one Simon’s Rock student. Assembling a student jazz band and giving them the opportunity to perform with jazz masters is a primary function of, producers of the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. The ensemble featured half a dozen wonderful soloists, and at least one double-threat, Jacqueline Doucette of Pittsfield HS, who stepped out from the sax section to sing two songs with more grace and verve than you’d think was available to a teenager.

Youth Ensemble music director Ron Lively of PHS told the audience that he put together the mostly Ellington set because the Duke had been mentor to Dave, and so the number chosen to link the learners to the legend was Take the A Train, with PHS pianist Samuel Landes and Brubeck taking turns at the piano, an 1894 Hamburg Steinway Concert Grand, which this concert’s underwriter, Jim Chervenak, gave to the Colonial in memory of his wife Françoise Nunnallé.

The video clip begins at rehearsal and ends with the concert performance. We’ll add more text and video in the coming days. There is more video at


2009 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival opening concert

Pittsfield, MA Oct. 7, 2009 – The 5th Pittsfield CityJazz Festival opened with a performance at the Berkshire Athenaeum by blood drum spirit, led by percussionist royal hartigan, and featuring bassist Wes Brown, saxophonist David Bindman, and pianist Art Hirahara. The group is dedicated to performing original compositions and improvisations connected to world music traditions.

Get the full festival schedule here: This is a video montage from tonight’s performance:


2009 A Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood review

June 29, 2009 Tanglewood concert review by

How ’bout that Garrison Keillor, ladies and gentlemen, ain’t he something – signs you up for two hours of entertainment, then goes and delivers three! To the two hour live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, in the Koussevitsky Music Shed at Tanglewood, he appended a twenty minute pre-show and a forty minute after-show that included audience sing-alongs, duets with Heather Masse, and thrilling encore performances by guests Steve Martin with The Steep Canyon Rangers and hometown favorite Arlo Guthrie. (re: Arlo)

This was the tenth time he’s brought the 35 year old show to Tanglewood, and it keeps getting better. Arlo Guthrie, whose Thanksgiving garbage caper took place just down the road 42 years ago, was an unannounced guest; Keillor said he’ll be back next year so they can talk “Berkshire history.” Early afternoon showers had cleared by the time we arrived around 5PM and mother nature delivered a splendid tableau for the festivities. Maybe jealous at being upstaged by the lanky Minnesotan, midway through the show she delivered a steady drizzle that sparkled through bright sunshine to about one-third of the Lawnsters outside the Shed. Keillor asked Guthrie if that was typical Berkshires weather? “Oh yeah, it’s been like that for weeks.”

Actor Martin Sheen was the show’s non-musical guest, delighting the audience in the role of a prickly wi-fi hog at Arlo’s Dew Drop Inn. Sheen and family were seen around Stockbridge throughout the weekend, at Mass on Sunday and then greeting fans on the porch at the Red Lion Inn.

Keillor, Martin, and Guthrie are pretty good talkers

Even though all the music and comedy performed today was as good as it gets, this show is especially memorable because it displayed the powerful beauty of the spoken word; for the satisfying feeling of community that can arise from the plain speaking of artists whose medium is language.

Besides all their other talents, Keillor, Martin, and Guthrie are talking adepts, which raises all the connecting patter of show to the level of the performance. We’re envious, wishing we could summarize more smartly than by declaring that the tenth Tanglewood rendition of A Prairie Home Companion was a titillating picnic of linguistic penache, verbal verve, and jocular jello.

re: Arlo: You may be interested in : Arlo Guthrie concert reviews, photos, and an interview.


James Taylor’s One Man Band DVD concert Pittsfield, MA, July 19, 2007

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What’s in a name? Hints, contradictions, teases… James Taylor’s “One Man Band” Show is but a handy approximation, while Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre is so opulent “Imperial” would be a more-fitting moniker. Now, the two will forever be linked because Taylor rented the Colonial and brought in Sydney Pollack and Don Mischer to produce a DVD around two nights of sold-out concerts July 19 and 20, 2007.

We’ll surmise that Taylor aims with his current tour name to convey the image of a street musician wielding an ungainly musical contraption, such as he could’ve seen during his “magical” year in London while recording his first album for Apple Records there in 1968.

He told the audience at the Colonial how he came to the attention of producer Peter Asher and then became the first artist signed by Paul McCartney and George Harrison to record on the Beatles new record label – and of having plenty of time on the street while the Beatles were involved in “marathon recording sessions” for their White Album.

After opening the show with “Something in The Way She Moves,” Taylor said it was “not the first, but the first presentable” song that he wrote (while a teenager, going steady with neighbor Phoebe Sheldon). “Songwriting is what I do,” was one of the straightest things he said all night.

James Taylor One Man Band at Colonial Theatre, soundboard, Pittsfield, Mass.But this show is evidence of another vocation, monologist. He has a real gift for that as he interspersed a full concert set of 20 songs with a narrative that spanned the half-dozen decades of his life. Some of the narrative has a more serious feel to it, although couched with humor, as when he talks about his father and mother; more is sweet, poignant – like how he came to write “Sweet Baby James.” Then there are the stories of the songs that aren’t family-related, which are out and out stand-up comedy material.

“Line ‘Em Up” for example, a song born of President Nixon’s resignation and the mass Moonie marriage in Madison Square Garden, which he introduces to hilarious effect, the narrative illustrated by a slideshow projected onto a large wood-framed screen.

And this is where his declared vocation is manifest, in the ability to transform public events and characters into songs that not only satisfy his own need for expression but also entertain and stimulate an audience.

James Taylor One Man Band at Colonial Theatre Pittsfield, Mass.Today, of course, the wiley street musician is a cat with an Apple laptop from which can emanate not just the sounds of the busker, but the blues of the Hammond organ, or even the soaring harmonies of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus!

All of which were present in this show: Taylor is accompanied by Larry Goldings on piano, keyboards, and harmonium and, from his laptop computer, Taylor projects onto the screen recordings of sixteen members of the T.F.C. (including his wife Kim) accompanying him on “My Traveling Star” and “Shower the People.”

Then there’s the musical contraption, rolled out from the wings for two numbers tonight, a big, boxy Rube Goldberg-like drum machine. Taylor said that the idea to put together a “stripped-down version” of his show came to him about a year and a half ago, but we had an inkling something like it was coming after his 2002 Tanglewood performance with the Boston Pops, where he debuted songs from “October Road” accompanied by Goldings and guitarist John Pizzarelli.

The boldest number tonight was the rap song Taylor sang through a bullhorn to the irresistible rhythm of the drum machine; sure, it was funny, but it was good and affecting too, and we’d like more. Just as a whole ‘nuther side of James Taylor emerges when he straps on the electric guitar to wail and strut on “Steamroller,” the drum machine (and bullhorn) seem to give access to yet another aspect of this marvelously gifted and generous performer.


James Taylor and Chris Cuomo video – Stockbridge, MA

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In this video clip, James Taylor comes onto the porch of the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA and gets ready for his performance on Good Morning America, and Chris Cuomo chats with the audience and wonders why he had not been told about BerkShares.

Reviews of James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood and the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield:

Video clips of James Taylor and Yo Yo MA on Good Morning America’s live broadcast from the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Sept. 15, 2008


James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma video – Sweet Baby James

For more about James Taylor, please see our review of the big surprise 60th birthday celebration that was embedded into the July 4, 2008 James Taylor and his Band of Legends concert at Tanglewood.

Reviews of James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood and the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield:

Video clips of James Taylor and Yo Yo MA on Good Morning America’s live broadcast from the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Sept. 15, 2008


James Taylor video – Shower the People

For more about James Taylor, please see our review of the big surprise 60th birthday celebration that was embedded into the July 4, 2008 James Taylor and his Band of Legends concert at Tanglewood.

Reviews of James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood and the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield:

Video clips of James Taylor and Yo Yo MA on Good Morning America’s live broadcast from the Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Sept. 15, 2008