Saluting the Smithereens’ DiNizio With a Basie Celebration

January 9, 2018
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A tribute to Smithereens’ lead singer Pat DiNizio, who died unexpectedly last month, will be held at the Count Basie Theatre Dec. 12.

By May Ann Bourbeau |

RED BANK – E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt chose the Jersey rock band the Smithereens to headline the opening of Little Steven’s Underground Garage at the Basie Count Basie Theatre, a new open-floor club concert configuration at the venue. Although the Smithereens’ lead singer, Pat DiNizio died unexpectedly on Dec. 12 at age 62, the Jan. 13 show will go on as scheduled, albeit in a different fashion. Van Zandt will host a tribute to the Smithereens’ lead singer, songwriter and guitarist.

The show, called Time and Time Again: A Celebration of Pat DiNizio, will include special guests Patty Smyth, Scandal, Richard Barone of the Bongos and others yet to be announced.

“With the sudden, tragic passing of Pat DiNizio, I think it’s appropriate that we take this moment to pay tribute to him,” Van Zandt said in a statement.” I will be honored to sing a few of his songs with the band, and I’m asking any friends of mine if they can make themselves available for a song or two.” Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken is grateful for the chance to pay tribute to his friend of nearly 40 years, and at the same time thank the loyal fans who have followed the band all these years. “We will play the songs people know and love along with songs that appropriately go along with the mood and sentiment of the evening,” he said.

DiNizio, of Scotch Plains, formed the band in 1980 along with Diken, guitarist Jim Babjak and bass player Mike Mesaros, all of Carteret. In 1986, their video for “Blood and Roses” was in the rotation on MTV, and the band went from playing local clubs to charting hits with songs including “Only a Memory” and “A Girl Like You.”

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“We had a very tight bond,” said Diken. “The music we created was the result of being a family together. The sounds we created were the product of our relationship and shared history. We knew each other’s styles so well. Pat was a great front man. He had the ability to gauge how the audience was reacting and call the set list off the cuff.”

Although DiNizio had encountered recent health problems, he was recovering and ready to get back to work. Diken said the band had scheduled several shows to kick off the new year, the first of which was at the Basie. “We all knew his health wasn’t great, but he seemed to be on the mend,” Diken said. “He was getting good care.”

And as many believe DiNizio would want, the show will go on as scheduled. Former member Mesaros will attend, along with current bass player Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion. As a tribute to their late bandmate, a portion of ticket sales will go toward the establishment of the Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship at the Basie’s Performing Arts Academy.

“What better way to educate young people in music than starting a scholarship in Pat’s name,” said Diken. The show kicks off Little Steven’s Underground Garage series at the Basie and will unveil to the public its “club” concert configuration. A stage will be built over the theater seats to create an intimate, open-floor atmosphere, along with 200 balcony seats.

“The idea is to give fans a peek of what’s to come when the Basie completes its expansion and opens doors to an all new, 800-capacity performance space to complement the venue’s historic theater,” according to a Basie statement. Citi Presents Little Steven’s Underground Garage at The Basie will be a series of public and private concerts at the nonprofit Basie, curated by Steven and Maureen Van Zandt, with the mission of delivering both classic and new rock ‘n’ roll to fans. The performances will support the theater’s $23 million capital campaign and expansion plan, which is expected to break ground this summer.

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As for the future of the Smithereens, Diken said nothing has been decided because the band members are still in shock from DiNizio’s death, the cause of which he said was officially listed as cardiac arrest.

“We certainly want to make sure our music lives on and our legacy is honored,” he said. “Our fans have been pouring their hearts out. It’s so nice to see the outpouring of love for Pat and the Smithereens music.”

The show is sold out but due to over whelming demand, it will be live streamed. For more information, visit www.thebasie.org.


Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at mbourbeau@tworivertimes.com. 

This article was first published in the Jan. 4-11, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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