The Smithereens/B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill/ January 30, 2016
The 1980s saw a revival of 1960s-styled pop music and The Smithereens were among the unembarrassed leaders of the new power pop movement. The four musicians, based in Scotch Plains and Carteret, New Jersey, connected in 1980 through a classified ad in the Aquarian Weekly and named the new band from a Yosemite Sam cartoon catchphrase, “Varmint, I’m a-gonna blow you to smithereens!” Pat DiNizio (vocals, guitar), Jim Babjak (guitar, vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass, vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums) performed together until 2006, when Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion replaced Mesaros on bass. Aside from Christmas and covers albums, The Smithereens’ seventh and most recent studio album, 2011, was released in 2011.
The Smithereens played to a close-to-hometown following tonight at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill, and so the band played for fun rather than for professional or promotional motives. The Smithereens celebrated the 30th anniversary of the debut album, Especially for You. The two-hour set opened with The Smithereens playing the album in full, accompanied by a slide show featuring vintage photographs and newspaper clippings of the band. The musicians barely moved on stage, so the music became a soundtrack as the audience was drawn to the video display. Beyond the album, the band played another 15 songs or so, including several cover interludes. The Smithereens covered The Who’s “The Acid Queen,” and then led “House We Used to Live in” into a guitar-jamming version of The Who’s “Sparks.” Perhaps too playfully, DiNizio then sang a verse and chorus of two Carpenters hits, “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” The show closed with “A Girl Like You” segueing into Free’s “All Right Now” and The Youngbloods’ “Let’s Get Together” before returning to “A Girl Like You.” Accompanied throughout the show by Andy Burton on keyboards, the performance seemed to showcase a new Smithereens for the 21st century, more guitar-led than ever, and far more of a classic rock band than a pop band.
Matt Corby/Bowery Ballroom/February 2, 2016
Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby was born in Oyster Bay, New South Wales, Australia, where he joined his school’s stage band and choir. At age 16, Corby auditioned for the fifth season of Australian Idol, where he finished as runner-up. He began releasing independent EPs at age 19. In 2011, on his fourth of five EPs, he introduced a deeper rhythm and blues flavor to his folk roots, and his music started charting in Australia. Roughly a decade after his stint in Australian Idol, Corby’s debut album, Telluric, will be released on March 11, 2016.
When Matt Corby first came to New York and performed at Joe’s Pub four years ago, he performed solo, singing and finger-picking an acoustic guitar, briefly playing an electric guitar and for one song electronically looping his vocals. At the much larger Bowery Ballroom, he brought a small band and committed himself further to exploring a throaty, bluesy sound. Surrounded by billowing dry-ice fog, the white stage lighting narrowly focused on Corby alone, he closed his eyes, snapped his fingers and looped his voice for a live multi-vocal-layered rendition of a soft and airy “Monday.” His musicians then joined him, but their accompaniment remained sparse so that Corby’s vocal tricks could ride above and dominate. For the rest of the set, Corby barely spoke to the audience and seldom opened his eyes, as he dedicated himself to his singing, only occasionally playing guitar or flute. The band played light jazz and funk rhythms, to which Corby’s soulful vocals stretched an impressive range from soprano to falsetto, gliding easily over the scales while emoting heavily. Before the set was over, Corby covered Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” giving it his own twist rather than mirroring the original. Maybe that choice of cover revealed the inspiration for Corby’s graduation from Australian folk to American soul sounds.
Nothing But Thieves/The Studio At Webster Hall/February 5, 2016
Vocalist Conor Mason spotted guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown in school in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England, and instinctively knew they should be making music together. By 2012, they recruited classically-trained guitarist Dominic Craik, bassist Philip Blake (Craik’s cousin) and drummer James Price. They took the name the name Nothing But Thieves from a lyric in a Steel Train song. After releasing three EPS, Nothing But Thieves released a self-titled debut album today, February 5, 2016.
Headlining a CD release concert at The Studio At Webster Hall, Nothing But Thieves already secured a local following that eagerly jammed against the stage, bounced to the rhythms and sang along with the lyrics. The quintet played melodic pop songs highlighting Mason’s soaring, wailing vocals as they were propelled by hard driving rock and roll. Mason’s vocal styling recalled Muse’s Matt Bellamy, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley. The slow and tender “Lover Please Stay,” on the other hand, showcased Mason doing his best Freddie Mercury, accompanied only by Langridge-Brown on electric guitar. If this band had been born in the alt-rocking 1990s, Nothing But Thieves would have been huge. As it turns out, the five members of Nothing But Thieves were born in the 1990s, so they are emerging in an era in which they might reinvent the music of their infancy.
Inaeona/ABC No Rio/February 6, 2016
Vocalist/guitarist Bridge Laviazar earned dual college degrees in art history and photography in 2004 in her native Boston, Massachusetts, but ultimately felt drawn back to creating original music. She began playing in bands with two former high school buddies, bassist Dave Soucy and drummer/synthesizer player James Dunham. After several other musicians did not fit the post-metal/post-industrial mold, the core musicians became a trio named InAeona, and quickly released a self-financed debut EP in 2009. Embracing DIY, InAeona first played shows locally, later self-booking national tours. InAeona’s debut album, Force Rise the Sun, was released on August 7, 2015.
ABC No Rio is a subculture art collective where no alcohol is served, so the public attends all-ages concerts strictly for the music and the engagement of belonging. Nearly every Saturday afternoon since 1989, ABC No Rio has used a former studio apartment in its 19th century tenement to stage radical music, usually hardcore punk, metal, progressive or experimental music. On this occasion, InAeona represented all of these categories. InAeona’s music was brutally loud, aggressive and noisy, but also massively cerebral and passionate, elements usually found lacking in punk or metal. Alternating between bombastic assaults and gently meandering melodies, Laviazar on guitar crunched with the rhythm section, then noodled shimmering guitar leads which she interrupted with her own sweeping vocals or shouts. Deep and expansive, exploring the spectrum from frightful darkness to blinding light, InAeona’s gripping, mysterious compositions splendidly bonded the audience for a captivating sojourn into both inner and outer space.