Patti Smith: Live at the AGO

March 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Well, I was a lucky boy and got a ticket to Patti Smith’s sold-out performance at the AGO last week. Imagine that.

I first heard Patti’s work (It just feels wrong calling her Ms Smith) in the late 70s. I bought a Sire Records sampler on cassette which featured the Ramones, New York Dolls, Flaming Groovies and the Dead Boys among others. Then, there was this curious thing called “Piss Factory.” Now at the time, I was very much into punk, but “Piss Factory” doesn’t sound punk by most definitions, but it IS punk in spirit though. It’s impossible to pull away from its rambling, feverish, almost stream of consciousness narrative.

Poet, punk, philosopher, she truly became a rock n roll star with “Because the Night.”  And then, the retreat. A backing away, or perhaps a re-direction of her energies, until a series of critically rated new work and a terrific book Just Kids. 

I’d never seen Patti live, so the chance to see her in a relatively intimate environment (apparently the AGO holds 400 or so people) was a real draw. The tickets sold out immediately.

I arrived at the AGO at 6:00 about half an hour before the doors opened to find a line-up. Eventually we got inside and staked out a place. Our ticket was upstairs (obstructed), but we managed to find a place where we had a great view (basically behind her left shoulder). And we waited.

Patti took the stage about 7:30 along with her guitarist Tom Shanahan and her daughter Jessie Paris Smith on piano. What followed was an intimate seventy minutes of music, poems and conversation. In my post about her photography show I used the word interesting to describe Patti Smith and her life. Fascinating might be a better choice.

Patti played nine songs, read excerpts from her book, a poem and a letter to Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s hard to please every one, especially when you have a long career. Me? I would have been happy if she had played all the hits, but I’m glad she didn’t because it would have felt like a nostalgia tour. An artist moves on. Patti played a selection (see below) from her career. She talked about her friends. She stumbled. She had trouble with a microphone. She was human. And it felt as if we were part of a small coffee-house affair with a good friend we hadn’t seen in a while.  A memorable evening.

Set List

Ghost Dance
My Blakean Year
Beneath the Southern Cross
It’s a Dream (Neil Young)
This is the the Girl
Pissing in a River
Because the Night
People Have the Power

NB: The AGO has posted a series of photographs from the show on its Facebook page. You can almost see me in one of them 🙂

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