Band Goes Back to School to Give Lesson in Rock
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

It was a special evening session in the schooling of rock when The Smithereens took the stage at the Shea Center on the campus of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey on Saturday, November 9, 2013. The historic band from the central region of the state provided a special in-depth class on the three R's - roots, rock and roll - for the students and music aficionados in the house.

The Smithereens in Concert - Band Goes Back to School to Give Lesson in Rock
The Smithereens were a fount of quality music in Wayne.

The Smithereens formed in 1980 in the garden state and they were inspired by a wide range of bands including The Beatles and The Who. Building on these influences, The Smithereens crafted their own brand of rock with elements of pop combined with intelligent lyrics and intense rhythms.

Prominent bass lines in "Blood & Roses" and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" propelled their first album Especially for Your (1986) onto the charts. Their second record Green Thoughts (1988) sustained that momentum, adding more hits ("Only a Memory," "House We Used to Live In" & "Drown in My Own Tears") to their credit. Since the late 1980's, the group has remained active with regular touring, more records and side projects. Smithereens 2011 their most current CD is structured around their signature sound of DiNizio's deep vocals, gutsy guitars and driving rhythms.

The Smithereens' show at the Shea Center was a tribute to classic rockers in particular The Fab Four and The Who combined with songs from their own explosive canon. The concert was a blast to the past. Their set-up at the Shea was sparse with just a dark curtain behind the band and basic lighting. The Smithereens started strong with a solid version of "Behind the Wall of Sleep". We have seen The Smithereens a number of times and have observed that they like to play loud which can cause some vibration but over all the band was in fine musical form.

"Let's rock," declared vocalist Pat DiNizio before they presented a peppy "Top of the Pops". Pat chatted a bit about their early days before presenting a newer song. "Sorry" from Smithereens 2011 had the classic Smithereens' tone with guitar solos blended in.

"Thanks for your support and stations like WDHA," said Pat as they moved into a memorable "Only a Memory" with all four singing the hook mixed with some coordinated moves. Sticking with their catalogue they played an extended "House We Used to Live In" that flowed into the intricate instrumental "Sparks" from Tommy. Sticking with The Who they performed an animated "The Acid Queen" and a feisty "I'm Free" also from the classic rock opera. Still in The Who mood they played an energetic "I Can't Explain".

Pat mentioned that they had done a tribute album to The Beatles. The next series of songs were from The Fab Four. The Smithereens added their own spin to "Hold Me Tight", "I Want To Hold Your Hand", I'm A Loser" and more.

The Smithereens in Concert - Band Goes Back to School to Give Lesson in Rock
The Smithereens at the Shea Center in 2013: Clockwise from top (l) - Jim Babjak, Pat DiNizio, Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion, and Dennis Diken

"Welcome to Wayne," one fan called out which led to an amusing moment where Pat thought someone was suggesting that they were the band Fountains of Wayne. The group returned to their own tunes with "Time Won't Let Me" and a robust "Blood & Roses". During both of these songs band members were at the edge of the stage engaging with fans. They jammed for a bit with guitarist Jim Babjak adding a few Townshend windmills for effect.

"Wonderful venue, great that there are places like this," commented Pat as they continued with more of their canon like the lively "A Girl Like You" that flowed into "Get Together" and part of "Behind Blue Eyes" before circling back to their original song. For the encore, The Smithereens' presented a spirited interpretation of The Who's "The Seeker".

"Here's a song about Wayne," screemed bass player Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion. "Bruce Wayne!" - that propelled the band into a section of the Batman theme that also showcased a quick drum solo. The instrumental closed the show with Pat announcing that they would be out in about 10 minutes to meet fans at the merchandise table.

Opening for The Smithereens was the Wayne's School of Rock House Band. The group featured a female lead singer, a number of guitar players, a keyboardist, a bassist and a drummer. The young lady thanked The Smithereens and WPC for the opportunity. She was a solid singer who led the group through a series of hard rockers such as Muse's "Stereo", two Foo Fighters tunes and a lively version of "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour.

They also presented classic rock songs from Led Zeppelin and The Stones along with "True Colors" a ballad from Cyndi Lauper. The Wayne School of Rock were solid and showed potential. Perhaps one or more of these performers might have success like their fellow New Jersey citizens - The Smithereens.

The Shea Center for Performing Arts located on the campus of William Paterson University is an intimate theater with a state of the art sound system. The venue hosts a wide range of concerts such as The Smithereens along with an array of events and educational programs. Please check their website at for a complete list of activities.

The Smithereens: Pat DiNizio - vocals, rhythm guitar; Jim Babjak - lead guitar, vocals; Severo "The Thrilla" Jornacion - bass guitar, vocals; Dennis Diken - drums, percussion, vocals

The Smithereens in Concert - Band Goes Back to School to Give Lesson in Rock
The Smithereens went back to their roots with a show that featured music from the British Invasion.

Related Links: For more information on THE SMITHEREENS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - The Smithereens | Wayne School of Rock | Shea Center

(Originally Published on November 11, 2013)




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