SAN FRANCISCO — Celebrating 33 years of existence by leaning on its more than three decades-long catalog, the New Jersey-based Smithereens delivered a high-energy show of classic material in San Francisco on a recent Friday night.
The East Coast quartet — lead singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio, lead guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacio — rocked the Great American Music Hall on O’Farrell and the Smithereens blew the place to — well — smithereens.
They hit the stage hard with “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” featuring Babjak’s searing guitar work and didn’t let up until early Saturday morning with a rendition of the “Batman” theme that saw Babjak, Jornacio and Diken take solo turns under the spotlight.
During the course of the evening, within songs requiring Babjak’s lead, DiNizio yelled “Jimmy!” just as the song soared and Babjak took it from there — never missing his cue. DiNizio, Babjak and Diken go back to the original formation of the band in 1980 while Jornacio, a welcome personality to the band, joined in late 2005 for the retiring Mike Mesaros.
The group found success in the 1980s with the release of “Especially for You” followed by “Green Thoughts” and the show contained eight selections from those records. Over the years, DiNizio’s song-writing talents continued to produce catchy, melodic, rock-driven hits that today, easily fill a lengthy set list.
Though the Smithereen’s held their sound throughout the 20 songs it performed, its more well-known selections: “Room Without a View,” “Yesterday Girl,” “Only a Memory,” “House That We Used To Live In,” “Especially For You,” “Top of The Pops,” “Blood and Roses” and “A Girl Like You” were the ultimate crowd-pleasers.
The highlight was the extended “Blood and Roses” where, from opposite ends GAMH’s stage, Babjak and Jornacio jumped down on the floor and wandered amongst the fans in full play-mode. The standing crowd, mostly aged the same as the band members, backed off and let both musicians do their thing.
After delivering the goods, the show-closing “Batman” had the feel that The Smithereens didn’t know what else to do. They did emerge after the show for autographs and to greet fans before splitting for Los Angeles and two shows later that day.