A Saturday night in New York’s Times Square is not where you want to be driving if you are trying to get to a venue to see a rock concert. The word “crowded,” cannot begin to accurately describe the hordes of tourists, each also determined to reach their destination on time.
B.B. Kings, the site of the night’s The Smithereens concert, is dead center in New York City’s Times Square. B.B’s seats somewhere over 500, has a better than average sound system, and provides a comfortable and enjoyable space to take in a show. The Smithereens took the stage a little earlier than the scheduled 8 pm start time, meaning those caught in that Times Square traffic missed the opening of the show.
The Smithereens formed in New Jersey in 1980. Thirty-three years, and with only one band member change, says something for both their love of their music, and the shared vision of the band.
One thing you instantly notice as the band plays “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” is the voice of Pat DiNizio; it hasn’t changed a bit. His vocals sound as rich today as they did when the song was released in 1986. The sound of the Smithereens has always been 60’s influenced, with more than a touch of east coast garage band thrown in. Over the life of the band, DiNizio as head songwriter has developed a defined sound for the band. Their next song of the night, “Top of the Pops,” is a classic example of the imprint 60’s music left on the band.
What strikes you most in taking in the music of The Smithereens, is the professionalism of the band. They are on stage to do a job and they do it with a sense of pride, in full command of their repertoire and with no pretense of being anything other than what they are…old school rockers, comfortable in their genre.
The Smithereens’ “A Girl Like You”
As you become immersed into “Only a Memory,” the understated harmonies give way to some well-crafted guitar work by Jim Babjak, and are nicely set-off by the drums of Dennis Diken. Throughout the performance, The Smithereens reached deep into their considerable catalog. And since many of the songs are under three minutes, if you had a favorite song, there was a good chance they would be playing it in their two hour show.
After the wonderful ballad “Especially for You,” featuring additional well-worked guitar work from Babjak, the group kept the mood mellow with a song originally done as a duet with Suzanne Vega, “In a Lonely Place.” Going back to the retro pop tradition, “Yesterday Girl” from the 11 album, is a song which instantly brings a smile to your face.
As the only non-original member of the band, bass player Servero “The Thrilla” Jornacion seemed like he has been enjoying his stint with the band. With a large smile across his face, “The Thrilla” provided a strong beat where needed and an easy complement when a strong beat wasn’t warranted. Throughout the evening, the band had a good deal of interaction with the crowd. Band members took turns in talking to the audience and poking good-natured fun at each other. Far from having any type of rock star attitude, The Smithereens are more like the guys in the neighborhood band.
The last two songs of the set were easily the band’s most identifiable: “Blood and Roses” and “A Girl Like You.” The band came out for a lengthy encore which included two Who covers, “The Seeker” and a dynamite version of “Behind Blue Eyes,” in which they easily persuaded the audience to help out with the vocals. They ended off the night on an interesting note, with the theme from Batman.
The Smithereens aren’t the type of band where one song will drop you to your knees or bring tears to our eyes like Art Garfunkel singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” or Stevie Ray Vaughn playing “Little Wing.” What they are is a band very much in tune with each other and the audience. They offer non-stop, easy to listen to, and even easier to enjoy, rock and roll. From start to finish, it was a thoroughly fun-filled evening of music.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor
[To see The Smithereens album catalog on iTunes click here]
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Top of the Pops
I’d Like to Say I’m Sorry, But I Won’t
Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong
Only a Memory
Baby Be Good
Especially for You
In A Lonely Place
The House That We Used To Live In
Blues Before and After
Miles to Nowhere
Even If I Never Get Back Home
Time and Time Again
Blood and Roses
Girl Like You
Nobody Lives Forever
Behind Blue Eyes
Theme from Batman