RNRG Live Music Report, Vol. 1

Edited by Ron Hart

The Smithereens Return with Marshall Crenshaw as Lead Vocalist for NJ Gig

By Ron Hart

MONTCLAIR, NJ—On June 1, North Jersey rock icons The Smithereens returned to the stage for their first area show with fellow Triple A legend Marshall Crenshaw taking over lead vocals for the band’s dearly departed and charismatic frontman Pat DiNizio, who passed away on December 12, 2017 and left the group’s future in momentary doubt. Nobody will ever be able to replace Pat, whose combination of working class roots and college radio cool helped make The Smithereens one of the most successful acts to emerge from the Garden State’s rock underground with such classic albums as Especially For You, Green Thoughts and 11. Based on the posts from Facebook friends the show, held at The First Congregational Church of Montclair in Montclair, NJ, as part of the Outpost in the Burbs concert series, was emotional and explosive all at once, giving major FOMO to those who couldn’t make it out (check out the setlist below this story) But fear not! The revamped band announced more gigs are slated for July and August, including a pair of dates at the Iridium in New York City on July 14th, along with the release of a posthumous Smithereens covers anthology featuring 20 over the band’s favorite cover songs from their personal vault, including renditions of tunes by The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop, The Kinks, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, T.Rex and many more.

For more information on these rock ‘n’ roll survivors,  visit https://officialsmithereens.com.

Upcoming Shows:
Saturday, July 14th at Iridium in New York City (two shows)
Thursday, July 26th at the Arcadia Theatre in St. Charles, IL
Saturday, July 28th at the Southern Theatre in Columbus, OH
Friday, August 24th at the Suffolk Theatre in Riverhead, Long Island, NY
Saturday, August 25th at TCAN/The Center For The Arts in Natick, MA

Outpost in the Burbs setlist:
Only A Memory
Top Of The Pops
Even If I Never Get Back Home
One Look At You
Can’t Go Home Anymore
Time Won’t Let Me (The Outsiders cover)
Drown In My Own Tears
Especially For You
In A Lonely Place
Well…All Right (Buddy Holly cover)
Cut Flowers
Crazy Mixed-Up Kid
Strangers When We Meet
House We Used To Live In
Sparks (The Who cover)
Behind The Wall Of Sleep
Time And Time Again
Blood And Roses
A Girl Like You

When I Get Home (The Beatles cover)
Now And Then

Concert Recap: Matthew Sweet at the Visulite Theatre, Charlotte N.C. May 25, 2018

Matthew Sweet and band electrified the Queen City. (Bill Kopp)

by Bill Kopp

After a couple albums’ worth of searching for his signature style, Nebraska-born Matthew Sweet struck creative and commercial gold with his 1991 album Girlfriend. Sweet’s winning voice and thoughtful lyrics were joined not only by his enduring melodic sense – the man has a knowing way with a sharp melodic hook – but by some tasty, jagged and highly inventive lead guitar work, courtesy former Television axeman Richard Lloyd.

Though Sweet shouldn’t be considered a formulaic artist – his body of work is too varied to be diminished by that description – he learned all the right lessons from the success of Girlfriend. He followed that album up with a string of chiming pop-with-teeth releases; that creative winning streak has now endured nearly two decades, across ten subsequent solo albums. Released May 18, Tomorrow’s Daughter is Sweet’s latest; it’s a sort of companion piece to 2017’s Tomorrow Forever.

And while Lloyd hasn’t been involved in Sweet’s recent projects or concert tours, his approach to playing – virtuosic, gonzo guitar lines of the sort one rarely finds within the power pop idiom – remains a prominent feature of Sweet’s work. Of late, guitarists including John Moremen (The Paul & John, The Orange Peels, Flotation Device) and Jason Victor (Dream Syndicate) have been among his six-string foils onstage and/or on recordings.

Sweet’s current run of dates in support of Tomorrow’s Daughter included a May 25 date at Charlotte, N.C.’s Visulite Theatre. After a brief but effective opening set from local band the Eyebrows (their new release was produced by pop legend Mitch Easter, who was in the audience this night), Sweet and his band took the stage. His longtime rhythm section returned for this tour: bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck (both of Velvet Crush; a fun sidenote is that Ric actually sat in a few times with Green, the Chicago powerpop band in which Rock and Roll Globe’s founder played bass) helped deliver Sweet’s songs in superb fashion. For a handful of dates including the Charlotte show, Victor was in charge of spinning out the dizzying lead guitar parts; this he did in dazzling fashion, from start to finish.

Victor did a fine job of splitting the difference between replicating the studio leads (many originally cut by Lloyd) and expressing his individuality as a precise, expressive and original instrumentalist. Meanwhile, at center stage, Sweet ran the band through a set heavy on classics (“I’ve Been Waiting,” “We’re the Same,” “Sick of Myself” and a dozen others), mixing in a few inevitably lesser-known tracks from his latest release.

The new material didn’t sound out of place among the well-known songs; that’s a testament to the consistent quality and distinctive yet identifiable nature of Matthew Sweet’s songs. Some pre-show difficulty with his standard amp rig (solved by instrument tech and Spongetones bassist Steve Stoeckel) seemed to throw Sweet ever-so-slightly off his game; after every song – and without exception – he turned his back to the audience to either fiddle with his amp or draw a pull from a water bottle.

Under normal circumstances, that repeated turning away might have diminished the flow of a concert; oddly, in Sweet’s case, it instead created its own kind of rhythm and pace for the show. Matthew Sweet and his band were in fine form this night, and the rapturous applause from the audience was in enthusiastic recognition of that fact. After a two-song encore, Menck and Victor returned to the stage, apparently expecting Chastain and Sweet to follow. But a house sound tech (not Stoeckel) quickly appeared onstage and admonished the musicians that no, in fact, their show was over.

That said, the audience in the nearly full house at the Visulite Theatre certainly got its money’s worth, singing along to “I’ve Been Waiting” and the long list of other Matthew Sweet classics performed this night.

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

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