SXSW Music: Dion

Bronx bard was never, ever a Dick Clark confection

Clad in black and wearing a beret, 76-year-old Dion DiMucci cut a compelling figure when he took the stage alongside Conan O’Brien house band leader Jimmy Vivino. The headliner on acoustic and the latter manning electric guitar, Thursday night’s storyteller session drew heavily upon the newly-released New York is My Home.

Dion (photo by Gary Miller)

Introducing “I’m Your Gangster of Love,” Dion recalled wannabe Mafiosi hanging around George’s Bar in his native Bronx. The fact he mentioned the name of the bar hints at why he’s such an effective songwriter. Details matter.

Likewise, hearing Dion perform in an unadorned blues context drove home the degree to which he introduced an undercurrent of raw, ribald emotion into seemingly cheery AM pop hits. Freewheeling stud fantasy “The Wanderer” still sounds appropriately nasty more than 50 years later. That never happens with a Dick Clark confection.

As a 19-year-old leading Dion & the Belmonts, he narrowly avoided being on the same plane that crashed and killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson. Then he had to keep playing the Winter Dance Party to its conclusion. “Visionary Heart” found DiMucci entering a dream as a mechanism of coming to terms with the tragedy.

If the performance was a bit uneven, the catharsis was palpable.

1961 chart-topper “Runaround Sue” was the logical closer. The crowd augmented the sparsely arranged rendition with singing and clapping that belied the Driskill Hotel’s themed Victorian Room. Queen Victoria wouldn’t have had a chance against high emotion, pelvic thrust, and Dion’s magic touch.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters/ for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

READ MORE
More Dion
SXSW Interview: Dion
SXSW Interview: Dion
“I don’t sing white, I don’t sing black, I sing Bronx”

Tim Stegall, March 17, 2016

More SXSW
Unleashing the <i>Hounds of Love</i>
Unleashing the Hounds of Love
Director Ben Young on his serial-killer couple drama

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2017

Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

More by Greg Beets
Texas Platters
The Hormones
Legendary Junk (1994-2017) (Record Review)

July 14, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: Larry Seaman
Larry Seaman
“I don’t want to be greedy, but I want a little more time”

June 30, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW, SXSW Music 2016, Dion, Jimmy Vivino, Conan O’Brien, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, Dick Clark

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)