Friday, August 05, 2005

Free Patti Smith

PATTI SMITH @ Central Park Summerstage 8/4/05

No don't worry! Patti isn't in jail or anything like that, but she did play an awesome free show last night at Central Park Summerstage. Although it was a muggy evening on one of the hottest days of this already oppressively hot summer, I braved it for a chance to see Patti for free, mere minutes from where I work. Her opener, Janet something or other, was like a PBS version of Patti. At least that's what someone I overheard said and I couldn't agree more. She had Patti's vocal qualities and nuances, but with none of the attitude or the bite. I'll cut her some slack since, according to the program guide, she was Patti's mentor back when she was still a college student at Glassboro State College in the mid '60s and she's a lifelong friend of Patti's as well, but I didn't enjoy her set at all.

And then Patti came on about 30 minutes later with a stripped-down, 4-piece band backing her that includes 2 former Patti Smith Group members (the unstoppable guitarist Lenny Kaye and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty) and her son Jackson on 2nd guitar and occasionally bass (Tony Shanahan was the main bass player but he also played keyboards as well and when he did, Jackson switched over to bass).

The set was short, lasting only about an hour and fifteen minutes, and concentrated on covers such as "Like A Rolling Stone", "Not Fade Away" (done as a tribute to Jerry Garcia; the anniversary of both his birth and his death is right around this time of year) and another song that was done as a tribute to Garcia. I presume that it's a Grateful Dead cover that I just didn't know. From her post '70s albums, she played "People Have the Power" (a song I can't stand but one that always sounds good live), "Summer Cannibals" (it was fitting that she would play this at Summerstage because the 1st time I saw her was at Summerstage back in '96 and I remember her playing it then as it was on her then recently released album Gone Again) and "My Blakean Years" from her most recent album Trampin'. Of course, she did pull out a few chestnuts from her '70s heyday such as the brilliant "Ain't It Strange", the beautiful "Because the Night" and "Dancing Barefoot" and to finish off the show, she encored with "Gloria", a song that never fails to captivate in part because it has what it quite possibly the greatest opening line of a song (and for that matter, an album) I've ever heard, which is the great line "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine".

Unlike other shows I've seen of hers over the years, she didn't dive deep until her back catalog and thus favorites like "Pissing in a River" (my favorite song of hers), "We Three", "Redondo Beach" and others were missing, but it didn't matter too much because she was so full of life, energy and youthfulness (especially for someone who's 58 years old) and the band was cracker jack tight as well. Furthermore, she was her usual motherly self, urging the crowd to drink lots of water towards the end of the set. Overall, I'd say it was worth the amount of sweat that was all over my shirt after the show. It's good to see a punk icon and a hero of mine still giving it her all.


Anonymous Mark said...

Hi Matt,

Another great review of the Patti show. I was listening to the opener on a park bench outside the fence, and I agree...she was more of an introspective poet reciting along to generally uninspired backing music.

I had to laugh at your comment about Patti being her usual motherly self...but you didn't mention the one song (was it "Rolling Stone"?) where she was at the front of the stage bent down, singing to the crowd, when out of nowhere she yelled to a photog taking her picture, "Get the f*** outta here!!!" Not one of her more motherly moments, I guess!


4:32 PM


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