If the ghost of Clarence Clemons was hovering around Norfolk this weekend, it would have been grinning from ear to ear.
Many of the late musician's friends and relatives were in his hometown for a two-night party packed with heartfelt tributes, abundant laughs and a mega-dose of loose, exuberant soul.
"I've got a lot of friends in Norfolk," a smiling Bonds said at Friday's all-star jam at The Attucks Theatre. "Most of them are drunks." He continued the theme the next night. Speaking on stage at The NorVa, Bonds said that some people who return home are showered with gifts of flowers or chocolates. "I get bottles," he said. Overall, Bonds made a charming MC for the evening, cracking jokes and introducing the night's performers in a manner that would have made
Nick Clemons, Clarence's son, brought his band to town and opened up both shows. His funk-rock group produced a guitar-based sound that resembled that of Spin Doctors or
Nick sang and played some guitar but didn't touch his father's main instrument. Clarence Clemons' nephew, Jake Clemons, showed he's quite capable of carrying on that family tradition. Jake played with different combinations of the performers throughout the shows and, at the Attucks, bravely reproduced part of Clarence's signature solo from "Jungleland." His tone and passion contained echoes of his uncle's trademark style.
At both shows, Jake also put down the sax and picked up an acoustic guitar to play and sing a couple of his original tunes. One of them was inspired by a story his uncle told him about a lost love. Jake said Clarence liked his tunes and wanted to record with him. They never got the chance.
At The Attucks and The NorVa, Michael "Tunes" Antunes, sax man with John Cafferty's band, played a beautiful solo as Jake strummed his guitar and looked solemnly skyward.
Other highlights from Friday included a rambunctious version of "On The Darkside" during which Cafferty and Antunes waded into the audience to amp up the energy. ("It's all work unless everybody's dancing!" Cafferty yelled.) Southside Johnny's rollicking take on
Lopez, the drummer, and bass player Tallent anchored the proceedings both nights, allowing different combinations of musicians to shuttle on and off the stage quickly. Guitar man Bobby Bandiera -- a mainstay of the New Jersey music scene who has spent years playing with
Both nights, affairs spun out of control when the whole crew converged at the end of the show for a climactic version of Springsteen's "Rosalita." A complex arrangement collided head-on with accumulated overindulgence to create an exciting mess. Southside Johnny, in particular, was fun to watch as he flung himself around the stage, mangling lyrics as he went. Musical integrity? Nah. Enthusiasm and uninhibited fun? A boatload.
At its core, it's an open-hearted joy. "Nobody I ever met made me more welcome wherever he was," Southside Johnny said of Clemons. "That's the kind of guy Clarence was, and that's the way it is."