Thursday, February 21, 2019

Peter Tork Remembered

Micky Dolenz, left, and Peter Tork at the Pantages Theatre in
September 2016.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
The Monkees, from left, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz,
Davy Jones and Peter Tork.
I was so saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Tork earlier today. I have seen him perform several times over the years with the Monkees, most recently at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA in September of 2016. You can read my review of that concert event here.

Perhaps my favorite Monkees concert was catching Tork and company (including the late Davy Jones) at the legendary Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in July 2011. Read my review of that concert event here

Tork was only 77 at the time of his death. I know he had battled cancer about 10 years ago, but he continued to perform and was always a key part of the Monkees' performances with his virtuoso skills on several instruments including keyboards and banjo. 

You can read a wonderful tribute to the musician/actor here.


Peter Tork, left, with Micky Dolenz on July 16, 2011.



Robert Kinsler

From left, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones perform at the Greek Theatre on July 16, 2011.



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Johnny Marr sets new North American Tour dates this spring

Johnny Marr delivered an amazing concert at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles in October 2018. Read my review here. If you have not caught him in concert (or have), you know you need to get to one of his upcoming tour dates...




Johnny Marr announces North American Tour

Dates set for April and May of 2019


Smiths’ guitar legend Johnny Marr, winner of British GQ's 2018 "Man Of The Year" Lifetime Achievement Award and NME’s “God-Like Genius” award has announced he is returning to North America in the spring. The extensive coast-to-coast run includes Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit, Denver and more. Tickets are on-sale at JohnnyMarr.com and a full list of dates is below.

Last year, Marr released the critically acclaimed album Call The Comet. Recorded with his band in Manchester at Marr’s Crazy Face Factory, Call The Comet follows his previous UK Top 10 albums The Messenger (2013) and Playland (2014). Says Marr: "Call The Comet is my own magic realism. It’s set in the not-too-distant future and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too. It’s something that people like me can relate to.”
Praise for Johnny Marr’s live show:

His gruffer, but by no means unrefined, vocals lend fresh flavour to the Smiths tracks he drops intermittently into the set; his fired-up “Bigmouth”, stabbed through with trademark arpeggios, seems designed to remind us that the Smiths were as much gobby post-punk rabble as they were foppish ego cult, while “The Headmaster Ritual” could be Daytripper-era Beatles with switchblades up their blazer sleeves.” (4 Stars)
- The Guardian

Marr (was) showcasing his great new album which somehow manages to combine those perfect Marr-lodies with a whiff of early eighties post-punk melancholy but also nods to that patented chiming guitar sound that he trademarked in the Smiths. The new album is his finest solo offering yet and the gig was a celebration of this and his own back pages...a perfect example of how seamlessly it all fits together into a continuous career whole in a sweatshod celebration of a decades long quest of guitar pop brilliance.”
- Louder Than War

“...the songs themselves sounded urgent and engaged. Guitar solos
emerged with power and clarity within songs.”
- The Financial Times


TOUR
04/27 - Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
04/28 - Charlotte, NC @ Neighborhood Theatre
04/29 - Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
05/01 - Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theater
05/03 - Providence, RI @ Fete Music Hall
05/04 - New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall
05/06 - Huntington, NY @ The Paramount
05/07 - South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground Ballroom
05/08 - Portland, ME @ Aura
05/10 - London, ON @ London Music Hall
05/11 - Detroit, MI @ Saint Andrews Hall
05/13 - Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
05/14 - Milwaukee, WI @ The . Pabst Theater
05/15 - Kansas City, MO @ Voodoo Lounge at Harrah's
05/16 - Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre
05/18 - Las Vegas @ Brooklyn Bowl
05/19 - Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
05/20 - San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
05/21 - Los Angeles, CA @ John Anson Ford Ampitheatre
Watch the video for “The Tracers” HERE.
Watch the video for “Hi Hello” HERE.
Watch the video for "Sprial Cities" HERE.
Johnny spoke with Rolling Stone about Call The Comet HERE.
Order Call The Comet HERE.
Connect with Johnny Marr

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Indie Heroes Roundup: R. Stevie Moore, Gurf Morlix, Marley's Ghost, Rogers & Butler

Beyond the reach of the Billboard 200 charts are a wide range of wonderful releases worth discovering by discerning music lovers.


Artist: R. Stevie Moore
Title: Afterlife (Bar/None Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Beck, The Kinks, Brian Wilson
Tell me more: Indie hero R. Stevie Moore has followed up his stellar 2017 LP Make It Be (collaboration with acclaimed singer-songwriter/guitarist/producer Jason Falkner) with the fantastic Afterlife. The new album is a freewheeling affair that finds the Nashville-based DIY artist exploring all of the corners of his peerless pallet including power pop, lo-fi rock, post-punk, spoken word and alternative folk. The snappy "Come My Way" finds Moore joining forces again with Falkner for a Kinks-flavored rocker bolstered by Ariel Pink's lead vocals. The exuberant folk nugget "The Winner," tuneful rocker "What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life?" art damage foray "Another Day Slips Away" and baroque rock entry "Love Is The Way To My Heart" are among the exceptional cuts on the outstanding album. The original material on "Afterlife" is weighted in favor of some of Moore's favorite recordings made over the past 15 years; the artist has now re-recorded them with producer Irwin Chusid to give them a more fully-produced studio sound. Information: RStevieMoore.com.


Artist: Gurf Morlix
Title: Impossible Blue (Rootball Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Sonny Landreth, Mark Knopfler, Billy F Gibbons
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter/guitar great Gurf Morlix has that rare gift of letting his songs breathe. Like Mark Knopfler and Nils Lofgren, Morlix is able to use virtuoso guitar work in the service of authentic and fully-original songcraft. On the Austin, Texas-based artist's new album Impossible Blue all nine terrific songs rooted in amidst Texas blues and American roots music expand beyond the mere boundaries of any genre markers thanks to lyrical lines and articulated tales that draw the listener into each track. All the more impressive is that Impossible Blue was produced, engineered and mixed by Morlix! The range of material extends from the lovely "2 Hearts Beating in Time" and blues-mining "Spinnin' Planet Blues" to the wry "Sliver of Light" and moodscape of complete loss painted in "Bottom of the Musquash River." The album closes out with "Backbeat of the Dispossessed," a poignant tribute to Morlix's late life-long friend and band mate, drummer Michael Bannister; that song  like the others on this great album  unfolds like an intimate conversation and the perfect listen.  Information: GurfMorlix.com.


Artist: Marley's Ghost
Title: Travelin' Shoes (Sage Arts)
You might like if you enjoy: Greensky Bluegrass, Old Crow Medicine Show
Tell me more: The joyful and rousing spirit that shines across Marley's Ghost's new album Travelin' Shoes is palpable, with the six-member West Coast ensemble's stellar musicianship and incredible vocal harmonies impressing across the 12-track disc. On this set Marley's Ghost revisits a number of traditional gospel-flavored selections, making each classic their own. The Louisiana-styled take on "Run Come See Jerusalem," undeniable sing-along "When Trouble's In My Home" and "A Beautiful Life," and reflective heaven-looking "Sweet Hour Of Prayer" reflect Marley's Ghost's ability to fuse a number of authentic styles into their buoyant and exuberant approach. Information: MarleysGhost.com.


Artist: Rogers & Butler
Title: Diana Dors (ZIP Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Kinks, Shoes
Tell me more: The debut disc from Ed Rogers and Steve Butler (the four-song EP Diana Dors) is sure to appeal to lovers of melodic rock and power pop. With their top-tier songwriting talents, convincing tandem lead vocals and excellent musical support of a great group of players including drummer Dennis Diken (The Smithereens) and bassist Sal Maida (Roxy Music, Sparks) the disc proves to be a solid introduction to Rogers & Butler. The infectious "Diana Dors," instantly-catchy "Possibilities and "Seven Hour Man" and folk-oriented "Witness Tree" make an excellent case for a future full-length LP from the New York City-based Rogers & Butler. Information: ziprecords.com.



Robert Kinsler

Friday, February 15, 2019

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers unreleased song "For Real" debuts today

A new Tom Petty song can be heard now. Read on...



TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS’ UNRELEASED SONG “FOR REAL” DEBUTS TODAY

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING COMING MARCH 1 ON GEFFEN RECORDS/UMe

FULL MOON FEVER
 INDUCTED INTO GRAMMY HALL OF FAME



For Real,” another previously unreleased song from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, is debuting today. Throughout his storied career, Petty did everything with authenticity—putting the music and his fans first. It is this sentiment that Petty sings about in the poignant and autobiographical song “For Real.”

Listen to/share “For Real” HERE


“For Real” is featured on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: The Best Of Everything, due March 1 via Geffen Records/UMe as a supplement to last year’s critically lauded, career-spanning box set An American TreasureThe Best Of Everything was born from Petty’s long-term desire to release what he believed to be his greatest hits and strongest material across his four decades of songwriting.  

Petty’s family and band-mates rallied together once again to fulfill his dream. Rather than chronological order, the special cross-label collection was sequenced as a hard-hitting playlist giving the entire catalog equal prominence, including songs from his solo projects, songs with world-class musicians The Heartbreakers, as well as essentials from the reformed Mudcrutch. Pre-order is available HERE.

The Best Of Everything will be released simultaneously as a 2-disc CD featuring deluxe packaging, LP editions in bothblack and clear vinyl, and in all digital formats. The 38-track set also includes an additional previously unreleased song: an alternate version of the title track, which restores a never-before heard second verse to the song that was originally recorded for the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ 1985 album, Southern Accents. Listen/share “The Best of Everything (alternate version)” HERE.

The set also features an essay on Petty written especially for this collection by his close friend, Academy Award-winning screenwriter, director, author and journalist Cameron Crowe.

All recordings on The Best Of Everything are newly mastered from the original stereo master tapes and digital files by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering, with supervision by Ryan Ulyate.

Moreover, Petty’s solo album Full Moon Fever has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The album is 5x platinum in the U.S., 6x platinum in Canada and celebrates its 30th anniversary this April. Full Moon Fever features “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” all of which are on The Best Of Everything.

THE BEST OF EVERYTHING TRACK LIST

Disc 1
1.  Free Fallin’
2.  Mary Jane’s Last Dance          
3.  You Wreck Me          
4.  I Won’t Back Down  
5.  Saving Grace
6.  You Don’t Know How It Feels
7.  Don’t Do Me Like That            
8.  Listen To Her Heart 
9.  Breakdown 
10.  Walls (Circus)          
11.  The Waiting
12.  Don’t Come Around Here No More
13.  Southern Accents  
14.  Angel Dream (No. 2)             
15.  Dreamville
16.  I Should Have Known It       
17.  Refugee    
18.  American Girl          
19.  The Best Of Everything (Alt. Version)

Disc 2
1.  Wildflowers
2.  Learning To Fly
3.  Here Comes My Girl
4.  The Last DJ
5.  I Need To Know
6.  Scare Easy
7.  You Got Lucky
8.  Runnin’ Down A Dream
9.  American Dream Plan B
10.  Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (feat. Stevie Nicks)
11.  Trailer
12.  Into The Great Wide Open
13.  Room At The Top
14.  Square One
15.  Jammin’ Me
16.  Even The Losers
17.  Hungry No More
18.  I Forgive It All
19.  For Real
 

Tedeschi Trucks Band releases new album 'Signs' today via Fantasy/Concord

I can't wait to get a listen to the new Tedeschi Trucks Band album Signs, out today. I have caught the band several times and their genre-blending sound of blues, soul, R&B and rock is just stellar. You can read a review of their 2017 live album Live From The Fox Oakland here. The Tedeschi Trucks Band was incredible in a headlining turn at the Doheny Blues Festival in 2013; read my review of that performance here. Also, check out my review (co-written with Orange County Register writer Ben Wener) of the troupe's amazing performance at the Doheny Blues Festival in 2011 here.



LEAD SINGLE “HARD CASE” CURRENTLY #1 AT AMERICANA RADIO; ALBUM HOLDS #5 SPOT AND BREAKS TOP 10 AT NON-COMM RADIO

Tedeschi Trucks Band at 2013 Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point.
Photo: Bob Steshetz

PRAISE FOR ‘SIGNS’

“Uplifting...electrifying” -Rolling Stone

"[A] potent mix of diverse styles...sits at the heart of the Tedeschi Trucks stew." -Forbes

“Instant classic.” -NPR Music
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 15th, 2019 – Today, Tedeschi Trucks Band releases 'Signs' (Fantasy/Concord), their first new album in three years. ‘Signs’ has earned accolades from Rolling Stone and NPR Music, who praised the album’s “ripping...mercurial guitar playing" and Tedeschi's "soulful vocals.” Listen to ‘Signs’ here:http://smarturl.it/TTBSigns

‘Signs’ confronts loss, heartbreak, and politically troubled times with a credence and conviction that puts the group’s undying world-class musicianship and collaborative spirit on full display. It’s a genre-defying collection that runs the gamut from uplifting soulful anthems to bittersweet ballads and driving rock and roll. Read more about the making of ‘Sings’ in Derek and Susan’s recent Relix Magazine cover story: https://bit.ly/2X1vgkP

Lead single “Hard Case” stands at the #1 spot at Americana Radio charts and the album holds the #5 spot. Watch the official video for “Hard Case” here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSUYngnt-D0

Susan Tedeschi, left, with Derek Trucks at the
Doheny Blues Festival in May 2011.
Photo: Robert Kinsler
To celebrate the release of Signs, Tedeschi Trucks Band will play an intimate show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 20th. They'll continue to bring their “refreshingly unscripted" (Forbes) live show on tour throughout 2019, including a 4-night, 2-weekend residency at DC's Warner Theater, kicking off tonight. Many dates are already sold out; full tour routing below.


BUY/STREAM ‘SIGNS’ HERE

TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND 2019 TOUR DATES
2/15/19 - Washington, D.C - Warner Theatre SOLD OUT          
2/16/19 - Washington, D.C. - Warner Theatre SOLD OUT              
2/17/19 - Hershey, PA - Hershey Theatre SOLD OUT        
2/20/19 - Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House SOLD OUT
2/22/19 - Washington, D.C - Warner Theatre                
2/23/19 - Washington, D.C. - Warner Theatre SOLD OUT              
2/26/19 - Philadelphia, PA - The Met Philadelphia SOLD OUT     
2/28/19 - Birmingham, AL  Alabama Theatre
3/1/19 - Augusta, GA - William B. Bell Auditorium
3/2/19 - Asheville, NC - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium SOLD OUT
4/2/19 - Paris, FR - L'Olympia
4/4/19 - Eindhoven, NL - Muziekgebouw
4/5/19 - Winterbach, DE - Salierhalle Winterbach
4/7/19 - Copenhagen, DK - Amager Bio
4/8/19 - Stockholm, SE - Cirkus SOLD OUT
4/10/19 - Oslo, NO - Sentrum Scene
4/11/19 - Copenhagen, DK - Amager Bio SOLD OUT
4/12/19 - Randers, DK - Vaerket
4/14/19 - Bochum, DE - Rurhcongress
4/15/19 - Hamburg, DE - Mehr! Theater
4/17/19 - Milan, IT - Teatro degli Arcimboldi
4/18/19 - Trieste, IT - Politeama Rossetti
4/20/19 - Zurich, CH - Theater 11
4/23/19 - Brussels, BE - Ancienne Belgique
4/24/19 - Utrecht, NL - Tivoli Vredenburg
4/26/19 - London, UK - The London Palladium SOLD OUT
4/27/19 - London, UK - The London Palladium SOLD OUT
5/10/19 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theater
5/11/19 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theater SOLD OUT
5/12/19 - San Diego, CA - San Diego Civic Theatre     
5/14/19 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Convention Center
5/16/19 - Los Angeles, CA - Orpheum Theatre
5/17/19 - Los Angeles, CA - Orpheum Theatre SOLD OUT
5/18/19 - Mesa, AZ - Mesa Amphitheatre
5/21/19 - Sacramento, CA - Memorial Auditorium of Sacramento
5/23/19 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theater of Seattle
5/24/19 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theater of Seattle
5/25/19 - Salem, OR - LB Day Comcast Amphitheatre      
6/11/19 - Osaka, Japan - Osaka Archaic Hall
6/12/19 - Nagoya, Japan - Zepp Nagoya
6/14/19 - Tokyo, Japan -  Tokyo Dome City Hall
6/15/19 - Tokyo, Japan -  Tokyo Dome City Hall
6/16/19 - Tokyo, Japan -  Tokyo Dome City Hall
6/28/19 - Jacksonville, FL - Daily’s Place *
6/29/19 - Boca Raton, FL - Mizner Park Amphitheater *
6/30/19 -St. Petersburg, FL - Al Lang Stadium *
7/03/19 - Orange Beach, AL - Wharf Amphitheater *
7/05/19 - Charleston, SC - Volvo Car Stadium *
7/06/19 - Simpsonville, SC - Heritage Park Amphitheater *
7/07/19 - Charlotte, NC - PNC Music Pavilion *
7/09/19 - Raleigh, NC - Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek *
7/10/19 -  Philadelphia, PA - The Mann Center *
7/12 - Marshfield, MA - Levitate Music Festival *
7/13/19 - Gilford, NH - Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion *
7/14/19 - Saratoga Springs, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center *
7/16/19 - Canandaigua, NY - CMAC *
7/17/19 - Vienna, VA - Wolf Trap *
7/19/19 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion *
7/20/19 - Huber Heights, OH - Rose Music Center at the Heights *
7/21/19 - Aurora, IL -  Riveredge Park *
7/23/19 - Rochester Hills, MI - Meadow Brook Amphitheatre *
7/24/19 - Indianapolis, IN - Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park *
7/26/19 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks *
7/27/19 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks *
7/30/19 - St. Louis, MO - Fox Theatre *
7/31/19 - Brandon, MS - Brandon Amphitheater *
8/02/19 - Atlanta, GA - Fox Theatre *
8/03/19 - Atlanta, GA - Fox Theatre *

* 5th Annual Wheels of Soul tour with Blackberry Smoke and Shovels & Rope (Additional dates to be announced)

MORE INFO ON TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Journey's 'Live in Japan 2017: Escape + Frontiers' coming on March 29, 2019

Journey put on an energetic and memorable performance when I caught them in Irvine in 2016 (you can read that review here). Very cool news that a multi-format release is coming celebrating several of the American rockers' best-known albums...



JOURNEY

Journey's Live in Japan 2017: Escape + Frontiers coming to DVD + 2CD and Blu-ray + 2CD on Friday, March 29, 2019

Journey's Arnel Pineda, left, with Neal Schol at a performance
  at Irvine Meadows in Orange County, CA, on May 12, 2016.
Photo: Kelly A. Swift

VIEW TRAILER HERE
PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE HERE

New York, NY (February 14, 2019)—On February 7, 2017, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Journey proved their status as one of rock’s best live bands when they brought their landmark albums Escape (just in time for its 35th anniversary) and Frontiers to the legendary Budokan stage in Japan. Eagle Rock Entertainment proudly presents this concert when Journey – Live In Japan 2017: Escape + Frontiers is released on DVD+2CD and Blu-ray+2CD on Friday, March 29, 2019.
A triumphant evening of music, Journey presented songs from 1981’s Escape and 1983’s Frontiers. These albums, which produced eight Top 40 singles combined, have sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide, and cemented the San Francisco band’s music in the cultural zeitgeist.
Kicking off the 2-hour set with “Don’t Stop Believin’’’, Journey kicks into high gear, presenting a set not just of their hits, but deep album cuts like Escape’s “Lay It Down” and Frontiers’ “Back Talk,” which haven’t been played live since the albums’ original touring cycles. The concert, presented with a minimal stage set, without big extravagant light shows or monitors, lets the music do the talking. The spectacular musicianship of Neal Schon (founder / guitarist), Jonathan Cain (keyboardist), Ross Valory (bassist), Steve Smith (drummer), and Arnel Pineda (lead vocals) shines on famed hits like “Open Arms,” “Who’s Crying Now,” “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” and “Faithfully.”
A fantastic representation of the band’s legacy, Live In Japan 2017: Escape + Frontiers showcases the enduring impact of Journey and these songs.
TRACK LISTING:
DVD portion:
1. Don’t Stop Believin’ Intro
2. Don’t Stop Believin’
3. Stone In Love
4. Who’s Crying Now
5. Keep On Runnin’
6. Still They Ride
7. Escape
8. Lay It Down
9. Dead Or Alive
10. Neal Schon Guitar Solo
11. Mother, Father
12. Jonathan Cain Piano Solo
13. Open Arms
14. Separate Ways Intro
15. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
16. Send Her My Love
17. Chain Reaction
18. After The Fall
19. Faithfully
20. Edge Of The Blade
21. Steve Smith Drum Solo
22. Back Talk
23. Frontiers
24. Rubicon
25. La Raza del Sol
26. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’
2CD:
CD1: Escape
1. Don’t Stop Believin’ Intro
2. Don’t Stop Believin’
3. Stone In Love
4. Who’s Crying Now
5. Keep On Runnin’
6. Still They Ride
7. Escape
8. Lay It Down
9. Dead Or Alive
10. Neal Schon Guitar Solo
11. Mother, Father
12. Jonathan Cain Piano Solo
13. Open Arms
CD2: Frontiers
14. Separate Ways Intro
15. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)
16. Send Her My Love
17. Chain Reaction
18. After The Fall
19. Faithfully
20. Edge Of The Blade
21. Steve Smith Drum Solo
22. Back Talk
23. Frontiers
24. Rubicon
25. La Raza del Sol
26. Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’

Monday, February 11, 2019

Marshall Crenshaw and The Smithereens celebrate life and legacy of Pat DiNizio at The Coach House

From left, lead guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken, singer-guitarist Marshall Crenshaw and bassist Mike Mesaros at The Coach House on Sunday, 
February 10, 2019.  Photo: Bob Steshetz


































Marshall Crenshaw at The Coach
House.  Photo: Bob Steshetz
As high as the anticipation was waiting for The Smithereens to perform with guest vocalist Marshall Crenshaw at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA on Sunday night (Feb. 10, 2019), I can only say the actual performance outdistanced even my wildest dreams about the return of the New Jersey-spawned rockers to the enduring landmark where I first saw them in concert 30 years earlier.

When lead singer-songwriter/rhythm guitarist Pat DiNizio died at the age of 62 on Dec. 12, 2017, count this long-time Smithereens fanatic as having been convinced the band would likely never appear in Southern California again. But when word came late last year that lead guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken would perform a short string of West Coast dates with guest vocalist Marshall Crenshaw culminating with a concert at The Coach House I was floored. Needless to say, I braved one of the fiercest winter storms in memory last night and made the long drive to South Orange County, CA to catch the event. 

When the band took the stage at 8:24 p.m., the capacity crowd cheered and the energy was immediately palpable and remained so for the next two hours. Opening with "Behind The Wall of Sleep" (off the band's 1986 landmark disc Especially For You), Crenshaw fit well into DiNizio's role as he sang the well-known verses while strumming away on his electric guitar and the band charged in freewheeling fashion that have always been a trademark of the Smithereens. 


Dennis Diken in action at The Coach House.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
This was exactly the style of concert that was always The Smithereens' hole-in-one; hitting all the right notes at a cool roadhouse where the band's splendid mix of '60s-minded garage rock, heavy power pop and perfect song craft sound as magical and engaging as it did the first time you heard it way back when. I wasn't the only one enthralled all night; I would look around me and beyond the obvious sea of cell phones capturing video and still images where the bodies and feet moving in time with a parade of choice songs.



Guitarist Jim Babjak at The Coach
House.  Photo: Bob Steshetz

Everyone on stage was central in the making of the music, and also paying tribute to the life and legacy of DiNizio (as well as The Smithereens; the band celebrates its 39th birthday in March 2019). For example, before performing "Strangers When We Meet" (the lead-off track on Especially For You), Crenshaw recalled he had performed keyboards on that original recording using an assumed name ("Jerome Jerome"); the performance of that track was explosive with Diken unleashing a number of artful drum fills that added dynamics to the melodic rocker.

"Folks, raise your glasses high and let's have a toast to Pat DiNizio," Diken said after the musicians finished "Strangers When We Meet." The crowd was quick to toast before the group on stage launched into "Only A Memory," the lead track off 1988's Green Thoughts. That memorable rocker was bolstered by the capacity crowd propelling the song via a dramatic clap-along.

Every song performed was essential to the night's magic, with "Crazy Mixed-Up Kid" (which was somehow joyful and wistful at once), Baroque-flavored rockers "In A Lonely Place" and "Cut Flowers," the sparse "Life Is So Beautiful" (featuring Babjak on lead vocals and stellar guitar play) and intoxicating rockers "Drown In My Own Tears" and "House We Used To Live In."


Jim Babjak, left, with Mike Mesaros. Severo Jornacion is on the far right.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
Those who have loved The Smithereens' otherworldly ability to deliver masterclass covers were in luck this night; The Kinks' "Tired of Waiting For You," The Beatles' "When I Get Home" (showcasing Crenshaw's convincing vocals), Buddy Holly's "Well...All Right," and the Beach Boys' "Girl Don't Tell Me" were definite home runs. Fans were treated to guest appearances late in the set courtesy of Ed Stasium (who produced the band's 1989 album 11) and long-time touring member Severo Jornacion.



Jim Babjak, left, with drummer Dennis Diken at
The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Photo: Bob Steshetz



Mike Mesaros on Feb. 10, 2019.
Crenshaw and The Smithereens closed out the regular set with an extended "Blood and Roses," with Mesaros' signature bass line sharing the limelight with Babjak's epic guitar work. 

The thrilling encore included "War For My Mind" (featuring Mesaros on lead vocals and Jornacion on bass guitar), a rousing cover of Badfinger's 1970 hit "No Matter What" (featuring Crenshaw's shimmer lead guitar work) and seven-minute, tear-down-the-walls version of "A Girl Like You."

Opening the night was Huntington Beach-based quintet Firemelon. Lead singer Matthew Samia led the group through a strong set of roots-minded Americana-drenched rock. The original songs were potent, as was a thoughtful take on the John Lennon-penned Fab Four classic  "Don't Let Me Down."


Review by Robert Kinsler

Photos by Bob Steshetz

The Smithereens performing in front of a packed house in San Juan Capistrano.
Photo: Bob Steshetz