The band least likely to get the unplugged treatment, Black Sabbath, got just that at The Crossroads in Garwood on Wednesday, when Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens presented a night of (mostly) acoustic heavy metal with a four-piece band.
“Only we would be foolish enough to attempt it,” said DiNizio, who sang lead and played harmonica, with backing by acoustic guitarists Eddie Gardella and Rick Winowski, percussionist John Hone and electric bassist John Haussmann (who wore a black wig and fake mustache to make himself look like Geezer Butler). DiNizio’s voice — laced, as it is, with sorrow and menace — turned out to be perfectly suited to songs such as “Sleeping Village,” “Solitude” and “N.I.B.,” and he and the band worked up an impressive head of steam on “Paranoid.” He talked about his longtime affection for Sabbath, and mentioned that he first saw them perform in 1971, at Union Catholic High School (of all places) in his hometown of Scotch Plains.
This was the third in a series of five tribute concerts DiNizio is presenting at The Crossroads, on Wednesday nights. His Doors and Grateful Dead shows have already taken place; next up are tributes to Bob Dylan, Sept. 30, and Bruce Springsteen, Oct. 7. (He will also be at the Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, Oct. 1).
On Wednesday, the Sabbath material was followed by a loose, wide-ranging jam session featuring everything from John Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down the Road” to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s “From the Beginning” and a Winoski-sung take on Neil Young’s “Down by the River.” It peaked with the Smithereens masterpiece “Blood and Roses,” complete with a detour into The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” and “Light My Fire.”
I realize DiNizio is taken for granted, to some degree, by New Jersey rock fans, because he plays out so much. But these are very special, extremely intimate shows, and the next two Wednesdays are highly recommended, especially for Dylan and Springsteen fans. For information, visit xxroads.com.