We Can Turn the World Around

DSC04364A friend invited me to see the Patti Smith concert on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA. Of course I already know her hit “Because the Night,” but otherwise,  I am not familiar with most of Patti’s music. She’s another one of those artists that rose to prominence in the 1970s and fell through the gap in my music knowledge that spans much of that decade.  I did read her book Just Kids a few years ago as part of my book group. I found that an interesting read as I tend to enjoy reading (auto)biographies and she certainly encountered a number of iconic figures in her young adult years.  When I read the book, I searched and watched videos on YouTube of some of the songs she was writing about so I would have better context in understanding the material.

During this concert, Patti and her band were set to play through her entire album Horses, celebrating the 40th anniversary of its original release in December 1975. There was no opening act for this concert. The Patti and the band stepped onto the stage to a huge roar from the crowd, which was clearly revved up to see this show. Band members, some switching instruments and rotating on and off stage throughout the show, included: Lenny Kaye, lead guitar; Jay Dee Daugherty, drums; Tony Shanahan, keyboard, bass; Jack Petruzzelli, guitar; and for a few songs, her daughter Jesse Smith, keyboard; and her son Jackson Smith, bass, guitar.

The set followed the album track order, beginning with her incredible re-make of Van Morrison’s song “Gloria.” Patti was absolutely energized and gave a powerful performance, commanding the stage from the first, famous line of the song, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” The crowd was singing along and enthusiastic from start to finish of this concert.

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Patti Smith Performing at The Wiltern

The set list was as follows. From Horses:

  1. Gloria
  2. Redondo Beach
  3. Birdland
  4. Free Money
  5. Kimberly
  6. Break It Up
  7. Land
  8. Elegie
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Patti Smith, Working the Crowd

After playing through the album, the band continued rocking out on more of Patti’s tunes and some covers.  Special guest, Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was added to the mix for a few songs:

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Bassist Flea Joined In

  1. Pissing in a River
  2. Oh, Carol!” (Neil Sedaka cover, link to his version)
  3. Ain’t It Strange
  4.  “If 6 Was 9” (Jimi Hendrix cover, link is someone’s video from the night, including Patti messing up at the beginning, you can hear the crowd energy too)
  5.  “Because the Night
  6.  “Dancing Barefoot” (link to someone’s video from the night)
  7.  “People Have the Power

For the encore, they performed their cover of The Who’s “My Generation,” by the end of which Patti had broken or pulled off all of the strings on her Fender.

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Lenny Kaye, Guitarist for Patti Smith

DSC04464For the concert, I was standing in front of guitar player Lenny Kaye, who has played with Patti from the beginning. I particularly appreciated the phrasing of his guitar riffs that so perfectly blended with the rhythm and poetry of Patti’s lyrics. He is a smart guitar player that knows when to embellish the music and when to let the lyrics lead. The consideration of tones and effects for each song was spot on.  At the end of the concert, I was also one of the lucky few who he handed one of his personalized guitar picks to, so he is tops in my book!

This concert was incredibly uplifting. The experience makes me want to tell all the young women out there to listen to Patti Smith and learn.  I felt inspired by Patti’s words and the strength that showed in her poised and confident delivery. Particularly the lyrics of the song “People Have the Power” had a moving effect on me: “Listen, I believe everything we dream, can come to pass through our union; we can turn the world around, we can turn the earth’s revolution.” This post’s title was chosen from these lines.  When it seems the political machinations of this world endeavor to drive people into opposition and silence our voices, we need artists like Patti to remind us to unify and make ourselves heard. It also had me mulling over the idea of power, what it means, and who is considered powerful.  Certainly, Patti has the power!

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Patti Smith at The Wiltern

 

 

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Then You Slip into the Masterpiece

DSC04168Following the Watkins Family Hour show at Largo at the Coronet on December 22, 2015 (see my post “We’ll Steal Your Heart Away“), there was a show in The Little Room led by musician David Garza.  Various combinations of the Watkins Family Hour band came on stage to play on a total of fifteen diverse songs. Here’s a rundown of what happened.

David started off the night with, as he said, “something from the ’80s,” as he began to play the chords to “Roxanne” on guitar. Someone in the audience shouted out that it was 1977 (the song was actually released in 1978). But really David was playing the “Roxanne/Rudolph” mashup. Not sure what year you want to attribute that one to as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was published in 1939 as a story, the song was first a hit in 1949, and the earliest online evidence of the mashup version I can find is from 2010. Anyway, he got the audience singing along and it was good fun.

Then David began to play a jazzy style version of “Winter Wonderland” and Sebastian Steinberg joined in on his bass from the bar area on the opposite end of the room. That was pretty fantastic. Then Sebastian joined David on stage as David played “Texas is My Hometown,” starting on piano and finishing the song on guitar (opposite of what he does in the linked video).

There was some vamping as David had asked Sara to join him on stage and she had to leave the room to grab her fiddle. Then he played and sang the Wanda Jackson song “Funnel of Love” with Sara Watkins joining in and singing a verse. Next David played one of his own songs, “Rude Eyeshadow” which is from his Human Tattoo EP.

DSC04169Benmont Tench then sat down at the piano, David played guitar, with Sebastian still on bass for a rock and roll classic, “Roll Over Beethoven.” Benmont introduced it by noting the song mentions “the guy (Tchaikovsky) who wrote this” as he played a little bit of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on piano. Great to see Benmont having a blast playing and singing that number.

Then Benmont took David’s guitar (wait a minute, I didn’t know Benmont played guitar) and David switched to piano. He said that it treated a certain city as a stand in “for whatever you can no longer tolerate.” I believe this may be one of Benmont’s original songs, not sure of the title, but the main line he referenced is, “Dallas, you’re a damn good town to leave.”

Next, David covered the Rolling Stones song, “Waiting on a Friend” complete with his Mick Jagger impression, while he waited for Sean Watkins to come to the stage. Once there, the Watkinses, David, and Sebastian performed a recent favorite jam song, “Keep It Clean.”

Jackson Browne joined the group already on stage and they performed a cover of the Leonard Cohen song, “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” This was incredible!  I was just a few feet from the performers and this was one of those goosebump-inducing performances.  What a great song that Cohen wrote; “And then you slip into the masterpiece.” Yes. I’ve borrowed this line for the blog post title. Followed by another amazing cover, this time Warren Zevon’s “Life’ll Kill Ya.” That was a pretty stirring rendition. With a chorus of:

Life’ll kill ya, that’s what I said
Life’ll kill ya, then you’ll be dead
Life’ll find ya, wherever you go
Requiescat in pace, that’s all she wrote

I felt like we all needed to shout “Amen” after that one and I am not even a particularly religious person!  That was it from Jackson Browne. Wished he would have played at least one of his own songs in The Little Room because I was really connecting with his song choices that night.

A generous fan was keeping the band full of pints of Guinness and he had requested David play “Stardust.” So David played and sang part of the song and did a lyrical ad lib in honor of the evening.

Sara Watkins then took over the singing duties, performing a cover of John Prine’s song, “Christmas in Prison.” I’d like to see the Watkins Family Hour record a version of that song as Sara sounds so great singing it.

There was then an audience singalong of “White Christmas.” This was followed by a faux New Year’s Eve countdown (the third or fourth of the night!), but this time it concluded with the whole audience singing “Auld Lang Syne.”

For an encore, David performed a request, his humorous, original song, “Nashville Co-Write.” Is there a recording of this anywhere?

Another magical evening spent in The Little Room at Largo. What a great way to send off 2015.