Photo by Angelo Cricchi
Beginning her set with two songs from the legendary Horses album, “Kimberly” and “Redondo Beach,” it was clear that sixty-one year old Patti Smith had not lost a thing along the way, least of all her voice. It’s incredible in fact how much her voice has not aged or altered over the course of her thirty plus year career. From the moment that she commandingly took the stage, she had the audience dancing along, singing along, and most of all, completely spellbound by her unique form of rock music that boils down to nothing short of poetry backed by some of the most apt and talented musicians of the past several decades. Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty and others have, over the years, unearthed a truly sensational ability to soundtrack the brilliance of Patti Smith’s written words.
Throughout the course of the evening, Smith relied heavily on material from her recent release, Twelve, an album that features her renditions of influential songs, drawn mainly from the late 1960’s. She performed a lengthened and searing version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” early in the set as well as other representational tracks from the era such as The Beatles’ “Within You Without You,” Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and a fantastic version of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen.”
In between songs, Smith shared some hilarious anecdotes. She admitted that she had originally been planning on fasting during her day in Seattle, an attempt that was usurped by midday when she stumbled into a sake bar. After at least three drinks, she then gave into another temptation of hers: chocolate. Since she had already failed at her original intention, why not follow up some sake with a little dessert in the crystallized form of fudge? She also kept pulling up her jeans during her set and then apologized by explaining that she had just purchased the pair from a truck stop in Nebraska for $11.00. Sure, the state is a vacuum that no-one ever needs to visit (take my word for it), but Patti Smith joked that the state is in fact, “in style.” The jeans must have been alarmingly comfortable.
In addition to the cover material, Patti Smith and her group faithfully performed several of her own songs. “Ghost Dance,” a personal favorite, surprisingly made its way into the set and made the author as joyful as a dead republican. Easter’s doleful “We Three” was particularly memorable too as was Gone Again’s “Summer Cannibals.” Late in the main set, Seattle resident and REM guitarist, Peter Buck joined the group onstage and played with them for the last few songs in the show and was even included in the entire encore set. They even attempted and succeeded to do a version of REM’s “Everybody Hurts.”
The show closed with an incendiary version of “Rock n Roll Nigger” in which Smith exploded into a political rant about the Bush administration and their myriad shortcomings. By the end of the diatribe, she exclaimed something along the lines of, “We have to rid ourselves of these motherfuckers!” Yes, she is indeed still chock-full of a raging fire, one that is brilliant and beautiful.