Monday, August 24, 2009

Smithereens Live: Master Craftsmen At Work

(Photo from The Smithereens Facebook Page)


Although they’re based in New Jersey, The Smithereens must be aware of Chicago’s unabashed love of power pop because their performance at the recent Lake View Fest was at least their fourth here in the past couple of years. They’ve been masters of the genre ever since their Beauty and Sadness EP received a rave review in Rolling Stone back in 1983. Generally, people think of Especially For You, which was released three years later, as the band’s first record since it brought them national attention via its irresistibly catchy songs.


The Smithereens opened their show at Lake View Fest (which was literally next door to Wrigley Field) with a rollicking version of “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” one of the better tracks from Especially For You. The only time they slowed down over the next 90 minutes was for the somber ballad “Cigarette.” They also performed songs from Green Thoughts, Blow Up, and 11, all of which were well known to the audience judging by the applause and shouts of approval. “House We Used To Live In” featured some dynamic vocal give and take from lead singer-guitarist Pat DiNizio, guitarist Jim Babjak, and bassist Severo Jornacion and segued into the instrumental “Sparks,” from The Smithereens' recently released CD version of The Who’s Tommy. They also played “Acid Queen” and “I’m Free.” Jornacion, who replaced original bassist Mike Mesaros and is dubbed The Thrilla From Manila by DiNizio, propelled the band through the cult classic “Blood And Roses.”


DiNizio was in high spirits, recalling how he lived in the Wrigleyville area for a few years, and asking people to move closer to the stage. Babjak, a nice guy as well as a first rate guitarist, reached into the audience on a few occasions to personally hand someone a guitar pick. The Smithereens finished their show by leading a sing-along of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” and afterwards, signed autographs and chatted with fans at the side of the stage.

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