By Anne M. Raso
The Smithereens’ Winter Tour is coming to your town soon and–dare we say it–leaving smithereens in their wake. Why? Because they are one of the rare bands that have been together over 30 years but still play at the top of their game.
The Smithereens’ current album, 2011, reunited the legendary band with Green Thoughts producer Don Dixon and was released April of last year. It reached #17 on the iTunes album charts and garnered accolades and awards along the way–but most recently it wound up on numerous end of year “best of” lists from famous DJs and radio stations (including Little Steven’s Underground Garage show on Sirius) and classic rock magazines. As for the follow-up album to 2001, no studio time has been booked yet but Diken tells us, “We are so gassed by the reaction that 2011 received and we are enthused about cutting a new LP (I still think of them as long players) this year. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive to us!”
This coming Saturday, January 21st, the ‘Reens will be blowin’ up BB King’s in Times Square and this show is an annual traditional for tristate area ‘Reens fans. They fans line up outside the world-famous venue hours in advance even when the temperature falls below zero, but it’s a more pleasant line than outside most shows–that’s because the band’s devoted large following seems to all know each other (as well as the band, since they make it a point of talking to fans after the show and doing a merchandise signing table).
Diken comments that the band always looks forward to the NYC show: “We love playing B.B.’s, it’s a nice room and the stage sound is very good. That’s an important factor that an audience may never consider but how we hear ourselves is so crucial. The crew there is helpful, especially the monitor man. on another note, it always feels like a homecoming to us. Our NJ/NY/CT/PA fans (they are the best!) and cousins and friends always show up and are very vocal in their response to our set. We feed off their energy and it’s great fun. also, I’m usually home before midnight!”
The Winter Tour is special this year because they’ve added a keyboardist, Andy Burton, a member of Ian Hunter’s Rant Band and Darlene Love’s backup group who recently performed with Garland Jeffreys on The David Letterman show back on October 7th. Besides touring with the ‘Reens, Andy is in the studio working on the new Ian Hunter CD. (Wow, that’s one busy guy!)
We asked the band’s much-respected skinpounder Dennis Diken (whom we’ve dubbed “The Earl Of Pearl”) about their history with Burton and why they’ve decided to bring him out for the current shows and he responded, “We first met Andy Burton when he played keyboards with Richard X. Heyman as our support act on the Blow Up Tour (gee, I think it was the Blow Up Tour)–since then, I’ve played numerous sessions and live gigs with him. He’s a great keyboardist and a fine gent, to boot. when we decided to bring out someone to play organ, piano and string parts on some songs we haven’t done live in a while (and some that we always perform that feature keyboards). Andy was a natural choice.”
The jovial Diken will not give up the not-usually-performed-live songs they will be playing with Burton, though. He just says, “Please come to the show and find out which one we’ve chosen!”
For those of you wanting to catch the Smithereens at BB King Blues Club, here is all the basic info you’ll need. The club is conveniently located in the heart of Times Square at 237 West 42nd Street, in New York City, on January 21, at 8 PM. Doors open at 6:30 PM. Tickets are $27 in advance and $32 day of show. The venue phone is 212-997-4144, and the web site is http://www.bbkingblues.com.
Die-hard Smithereens fans who want to find out more details about the band’s history should check out leader Pat DiNizio’s open-ended limited engagement Las Vegas show “Confessions Of A Rock Star” (yes, there’s a book to go with it as well). The show, which features the great storytelling with is synonymous with DiNizio’s “living room concerts,” is performed Wednesday-Monday nights each week at 7 in The Riviera’s Crazy Girls Theater and it features not only DiNizio’s talented onstage trio, but an interesting montage of historical footage. For tickets (which are $29.95 plus fees), go to ticketmaster.com.
The Smithereens also have a Facebook fan page called The Smithereens Official Facebook Group For Band, which is an open FB group definitely worth checking out!
Photos of the Smithereens’ Union County Music Fest performance and Dennis Diken mcing the Bambi Kino show at the Bowery Electric are both by Anne Raso. Shot of keyboardist Andy Burton by Seth Glassman. The Smithereens b/w publicity shot courtesy The Smithereens (pictured left to right are lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Severo “Tha Thrilla” Journacion, drummer Dennis Diken and lead singer/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio).