The Smithereens @ B.B. King Blues Club (1/16/2010)

Logo - Smithereens

Artist: The Smithereens
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: n/a
Date: 1/16/2010
Label: E1 Entertainment

Technically speaking, I started my own 2010 music review year off in a very different fashion from the last one by seeing legendary Blues guitarist Johnny Winter. It was nothing less than inspiring but I would quickly get into the Metal vibe with the rousing show held by Korpiklaani and Tyr who had just played the other night over at the Gramercy Theatre. The season of Winter show made me realize how I still craved a little bit of difference because I felt that something else along these lines would best arm me for the Metal battles to come. They do say that variety is the spice of life year after all and that in the end would lead me to B.B. King Blues Club once again for an appearance by The Smithereens. To be brutally honest I have always been more of the casual fan of the band but really do count a healthy number of their tunes as favorites and with the band celebrating a thirty year career then it was about time that I rocked out with them. There was no opening band on the bill which originally bothered me but my buddy said that we should count on a very long set so I was game. Here is how the evening went for this very, very fun night.

The Smithereens: A little history first, The Smithereens were formed in Carteret, NJ back in 1980 and up until 2006 had remained all original members since their humble beginnings. Musically they play a very tasty blend of Power Pop if you want to quickly label it, but in truth their sound is a lot more interesting and has much in common with how bands like Cheap Trick and even The Who did their thing in the very early days. The band hit the stage shortly after some cool vintage Who video films and this made sense since The Smithereens had recently recorded their own tribute to the band on “The Smithereens Play Tommy”. Some of this footage is available to the public on the various releases focusing on the legendary Brits but this article is not about them so enough on that. Singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio and the rest of the guys took to the stage but would be introduced by the legendary Sid Bernstein. You might remember him because he is the man who helped first bring The Beatles to the USA and that is one hell of an introduction. We then got a short film that focused on The Smithereens across the early part of their career and this was pretty cool. The film ended with late night talk show host Arsenio Hall (remember him anyone?) who introduced the band and their song “A Girl Like You” – it was from here that the band kicked in and now the night was officially in play.

The recent shows of The Smithereens have been finding them doing the complete album “11” from beginning to end and this is apparently based on it being the record that really put the band on the map. They had four full studio albums prior to this one and a live release so that pretty much surprised me when I learned this. “11” was the highest charting album in the bands career so that might have also had something to do with it. My personal favorite from the band had been “Especially For You” based on its having “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and “Blood and Roses” on it. These two killer tracks made me scratch my head in wonder about why the band was not going regular gigs at Madison Square Garden by now but as we see, the industry often misses the boat while the hard core true fans keep the music vital again and again. DiNizio was in great spirits it seemed and he would periodically talk to the crowd in a manner that you expect to find when one is talking to old friends. As I glanced around the room I realized how I was in the minority tonight and almost everyone around me was a supporter with honors for a very long time. I had to say that I enjoyed hearing “11” presented in full tonight and felt that this would make a great bonus on some kind of anniversary edition of that album if the powers that be ever chose to release one. Tonight songs like “William Wilson” (which to me sounded like old Who) and “Yesterday Girl” were breathing new life into my Rock and Roll mind. A great way to begin the set this evening and one that worked well in the premise of what many other bands are currently doing on tour.

After the album had completed, DiNizio said that this was a “new song” and I didn’t catch its name but it sounded good. My guess is that this will be on the forthcoming album in 2010. There would be no breaks as the guys jumped into some “Live At Leeds” style jamming ala The Who and this would be their homage to the band as we found them doing on “Plays Tommy”. Having heard the album and loving it, I admit that I was a tad disappointed in their opting to play “Acid Queen” and felt they should have done “Sparks” or given drummer Dennis Diken the microphone and let him do “Sensation” or “Pinball Wizard”. He sings those on the album after all. Either way this was still a great part of the set and guitarist Jim Babjak was making it all look easy with his axe. There was a fantastic sound to the band tonight and I think that the venue of B.B. King’s was a great choice based on its acoustics. We had now officially passed the one hour mark for the show and many bands choose to begin wrapping it up around this point but this would not be the case for The Smithereens much to the delight of their fans. My vantage point tonight was very close to the stage directly next to where DiNizio was singing and I was able to glance at the lengthy song list that was in front of him.

Apparently this list was where the band picks off the number that they feel like playing at any given point in this part of the set. We saw something similar during the Blackmore’s Night show, where a rundown of about thirty songs were in front of the singer but only a reasonable amount of these would be played as opposed to all of them. I was fine with any of their choices as long as they found time to include my two original favorites from the way back days. They would do the pair of them and many of the audience members in the front got the extra treat of Pat’s guitar pick which he would place in their eager hands again and again. I had mentioned that the band was no longer exclusively original members and while sad news for some, it is true that bassist Mike Meseros had stepped down in 2006. The upside to this news is that he has been capably replaced by Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion who hails from the Philippines and does an amazing job at the bands catalog of tunes. The whole evening was best described as “solid Rock” with nothing cheesy or poppy about it at all. In the live sense The Smithereens are a lot heavier than I expected and many of the songs have a different drive to them. Thanks to drummer Dennis Diken who was showcasing the skills tonight and showed that you don’t need a hundred drums to your kit to be a seriously kick ass drummer. He reminded me a lot of Bun E. Carlos tonight and that is a great comparison. As they reached the end of the night Jim would jump into the audience and play a little bit and soon he was joined by Severo. The audience formed a circle around them and didn’t interfere with their playing at all. What a difference the kind of show makes in terms of this happening. Had this been a Metal show, I don’t think the guys would have safely gotten off the stage with all those over zealous fans waiting to pounce.

I loved this evening’s gig and will definitely catch them if they return again in the future. I can also make their show a staunch recommendation because the tunes are all catchy and have a different feel to them when presented in the live sense. You also cannot argue with an over two hour show which was what we got this evening. Thanks a lot guys, come back soon. Remember to check out their Who tribute and maybe even their Beatles one if you are curious. Their new CD is as yet untitled so keep watching the bands official site for details on that. Tomorrow I would be back here for the legendary Doom artisans Pentagram – back to the Metal for me and I do so with fresh batteries.

Set List:
11 In Full
1. A Girl Like You
2. Blues Before And After
3. Blue Period
4. Baby Be Good
5. Room Without A View
6. Yesterday Girl
7. Cut Flowers
8. William Wilson
9. Maria Elena
10. Kiss Your Tears Away
11. New song
12. The House We Used To Live In
13. Leeds Jamming (The Who)
14. Acid Queen (The Who)
15. I’m Free (The Who)
16. Behind The Wall Of Sleep
17. Drown In My Own Tears
18. Only A Memory
19. Top Of The Pops
20. Miles From Nowhere
21. Time Won’t Let Me
22. Blood And Roses
23. My Girl – She Got (unsure)
24. Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
25. Batman Theme – extended jam crowd

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