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Love ya to smithereens: Pat DiNizio at All Sports Pub.

Through the Past, Loosely

Pat DiNizio
All Sports Pub, Oct. 10 1

By John Brodeur

The Smithereens—a meat-and-potatoes rock band in the vein of many of their New Jersey brethren—were hastily labeled as “college rock” (a precursor to the equally squirrelly term, “alternative”) before hitting it big on the pop charts with Smithereens 11 in 1989. Unfortunately, they never returned to such commercial heights and essentially closed up shop following 1994’s criminally overlooked A Date With the Smithereens LP. Since then, lead Smithereen Pat DiNizio ran for U.S. Senate, served a stint as program director for XM Satellite Radio and, most recently, began work on an independent film. But last Friday night, DeNizio brought his Living Room Tour to All Sports Pub in Troy (now managed by Artie Fredette), showing that, despite his other interests, he hasn’t lost a beat in his 20-year musical career.

Advance press promised Smithereens hits and a few covers, and the smallish crowd was treated to generous helpings of both in an intimate setting. Clad head-to-toe in black, DiNizio took the stage armed with a pack of Marlboro Reds, a bottle of Bud and the cleanest-sounding Fender Stratocaster I’ve ever heard. Opening with a teaser from the Who’s Tommy, he quickly took a hard right into his former band’s biggest hit, “A Girl Like You.” He was in fine voice all evening, especially on a flawless read of the 1986 gem “Cigarette,” and displayed some excellent guitar work, complete with Townshendesque rhythmic ornamentation.

Over the course of the 90-minute-plus set, DeNizio touched on all points of his career, including a handful of songs from Smithereens 11, classics like “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (from Especially for You) and “Only a Memory” (Green Thoughts), and a few newer numbers. Several songs were prefaced by stories or anecdotes, lending a VH-1 Storytellers vibe to the performance. A hilarious bit about meeting Ozzy after a Black Sabbath concert at age 15 introduced a folky rendition of Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” and before playing “Blue Period,” he explained how the song was written for Belinda Carlisle, but turned down by her record label. Too bad for them—it’s a drop-dead-gorgeous tune.

The show’s loose, spontaneous vibe lent itself to DiNizio’s performance. He played around with tempos and cadences within songs and, in the case of “Blues Before and After,” reworked the song entirely. An audience request for R.E.M.’s “Talk About the Passion” was attempted, although aborted, and his own choice of covers was impeccable (Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” The Beatles’ “Free as a Bird,” a humorous take on “A Horse With No Name”). The evening concluded with a killer “Blood and Roses” (I had forgotten how much that one sounds like Mellencamp’s “Rain on the Scarecrow”) and the 1991 hit “Top of the Pops.” Throughout the proceedings, DiNizio came off as both congenial and assured—a real veteran doing what he truly does best. Top of the pops, indeed.

Low Spark

Pat Metheny
The Egg, Oct. 9

by Paul Rapp

I just reread my fawning reviews of Pat Metheny’s Van Dyck shows (1997 and 2001), and wonder if I’m just spoiled rotten. There’s something about being seated between the guy’s A and D string that adds to the enjoyment of the performance, and you just don’t get that in row K of the Egg. Or maybe I’m a little agitated by the fact that I got to last Thursday’s show at the time listed in the newspaper, and found myself walking into a show 30 minutes along. In any event, something wasn’t right here.

At the 30-minute mark (when I showed up), Metheny was sitting alone on stage strumming an open-tuned guitar, creating big waves of sound that were pleasant and nice, and would have fit well as a soundtrack for a travelogue to a place like, say, Greenland. He then fingerpicked a lengthy acoustic piece that was melodic, simple, and pleasant and nice. Yawn. Then he whipped out this big mutant guitar thing, which was described to me as a 46-string harp-guitar, and had at least three different sets of strings, fingerboards, etc., which Metheny played all at once. It was an awesome thing to behold: a great big complex sound with nice electronic effects thrown in for good measure, and to good effect. An entire performance on this contraption would be delightful and devastating. But we got one short, incredible piece, and then it was band time.

The stellar trio (the legendary Christian McBride on bass, and Antonio Sanchez on drums) played the rest of the evening, and despite all the components being present, things didn’t seem to gel. I don’t know if it was the sound mix, the big egg-shaped room, the relative humidity, my chronic tinnitus, or the electronics Metheny put his guitars through, but the whole thing sounded as if it were being performed underwater for much of the night. The lights were sparse and dim, and Metheny played much of the night more or less in the dark.

All in all, the material leaned on the melodic and smooth, and while part of Metheny’s genius is his ability to meld comfortable and challenging, a segment of that equation was missing. There was a lack of electricity and bite, a hesitance, and dimming sense of claustrophobia. Even the set-ending blast on the synthesized guitar seemed muted; why, with an instrument that hypothetically can sound like anything, does Metheny choose a sound that recalls Dick Hyman’s “The Minotaur?”

On the bright side, McBride did unspeakable feats with the bass, and every solo he was given was a dazzling exercise in humor, passion and things he can do that you can’t.

Metheny did mention that this was the first night of a long tour, and that could explain a lot. I’d suspect in two months this trio will breathe fire from the git, and all will be right with the world again. Last Thursday, at least for me, the fire flickered.

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