With his down-to-earth, genuine, non-rockstar-like demeanor, Dinizio makes it easy to forget that he has written some of the most perfect pop songs of the ’80s and ’90s.
Argosy Casino, Alton, Ill.
Introduced by the evening’s announcer as "the best band to ever come out of the state of New Jersey," The Smithereens greeted the capacity crowd with just some hand waving and big smiles before launching into the show’s first song, "Only a Memory." As with most of the legendary band’s many hits that they’ve acquired over the last 25 or so years, it sounded as great now as it did when it was dominating the airwaves.
A few more songs were played consecutively, including head-bopping versions of "Top of the Pops," "House at the End of the World" and "Room Without a View"; other than extended guitar jam-filled endings, the songs were delivered pretty much as recorded. At one point during this segment, the band’s singer/songwriter Pat Dinizio took a moment to greet the crowd. With his down-to-earth, genuine, non-rockstar-like demeanor, Dinizio makes it easy to forget that he has written some of the most perfect pop songs of the ’80s and ’90s, instead giving the feeling that he could be an old college buddy that you haven’t seen in a while. He connected well with the audience, made up of mostly people in their 40s and 50s, through his use of friendly, and often funny, between-song commentary, which never became too long-winded.
His vocals, although not quite as strong as they once were, are still remarkably intact and relatively unchanged. He is significantly heavier than he once, but that only seems to contribute to the aura that he gives off of being a real person, not attempting to adhere to any industry standards of what a rock musician is supposed to look like.
His band, which still features its original drummer and long-time guitarist, continued to deliver the goods with flawless precision—some of the mid-set highlights included the catchy "Yesterday’s Girl," the melancholy "Blue Period" and the minor-chord masterpiece "Behind the Wall of Sleep." As expected based on their latest Beatles tribute CD Meet the Beatles, the band played four songs by the Fab Four, including "I Want to Be Your Man" and what Dinizio said was the first Beatles song he ever heard, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." This was the only part of the show in which other members sang lead vocals: one by the drummer, another by the bassist. All four of the covers were well executed; the two-thumbs-up approval from Beatle Bob confirmed that even more.
The evening’s only yet-to-be-released song was made into an audience-participation segment, when Dinizio taught everyone the easy to sing chorus before it began. A totally rocking version of "Blood and Roses" (my personal favorite) ended the 75-minute set in a strong way, bringing much of the crowd to their feet. The two-song encore was a superb, although completely unexpected cover of the Who’s "Behind Blue Eyes," followed by the band’s biggest hit "Girl Like You," which received a well-deserved standing ovation.
After the show, a long line formed at the merchandise table, where the band members chatted with audience members and gave autographs. I urged Dinizio to "Keep on doing what you do as long as you can," and, with a sweaty yet sincere look on his face, he said that he would. There’s no doubt in my mind that he wasn’t just saying that to be polite. | Michele Ulsohn