Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Smithereens at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Pat DiNizio
In Scotch Plains, New Jersey, a young Pat DiNizio became a music fan in 1964 after watching the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. One night in the 1970s, DiNizio purchased an out-of-print Buddy Holly album, and listening to it inspired him to become a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Meanwhile, in nearby Carteret, New Jersey, drummer Dennis Diken, guitarist Jim Babjak and bassist Mike Mesaros met as high school students and jammed together throughout the 1970s. DiNizio and Diken met through a classified ad DiNizio placed in The Aquarian Weekly looking for a drummer. Initially they formed a new wave cover band called the Like but retired the band after just one gig. In 1980, DiNizio wanted to record demos of some original songs and needed a drummer, so he contacted Diken. Diken eventually recruited Babjak and Mesaros. The quartet became the Smithereens, adopting the name from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam’s catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!" The band's seventh and most recent studio album of original songs, 2011, was released in 2011.

The Smithereens headlined once again tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, but this time was different. The first thing the audience noticed was that Mesaros was back in the band after a 10-year hiatus. Secondly, the audience could tell instantly that DiNizio’s arms appeared to be paralyzed. He later explained simply that he was having "work" done on his arms. (In 2014, DiNizio slipped on ice on his back porch and injured his hand.  A couple of weeks later, he slipped in his bathtub and crashed his elbow on the side of the tub. These injuries left him with extensive nerve damage.) As a result, DiNizio did not play guitar at this gig. He was in fine voice, however, and the band behind him, now operating as a power trio, sounded more like the Who than ever. DiNizio mentioned often how the band has played together for 37 years, but nearly the entire set hearkened back to the band's first decade of recordings. The band also revealed its early inspirations by covering Buddy Holly ("Well Alright"), the Beatles ("Please Please Me") and the Who ("Sparks"). Between songs, DiNizio shared amusing anecdotes on Smithereens history but said very little about his or the band's present or future. One can only hope that his arms heal so he can resume writing songs and playing guitar.

Visit the Smithereens at

  1. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  2. Top of the Pops
  3. Sorry
  4. Drown in My Own Tears
  5. Green Thoughts
  6. Listen to Me Girl
  7. Now and Then
  8. War for My Mind
  9. Miles from Nowhere
  10. Only a Memory
  11. Spellbound
  12. Blues Before and After
  13. Baby Be Good
  14. Maria Elena
  15. Well Alright (Buddy Holly cover)
  16. Long Way Back Again
  17. Love Is Gone
  18. Since You Went Away
  19. Yesterday Girl
  20. Room without a View
  21. Please Please Me (The Beatles cover)
  22. House We Used to Live In / Sparks (The Who cover)
  23. Time and Time Again
  24. Blood and Roses