A 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.
The set list was as follows. From Horses:
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:
- “Pissing in a River“
- “Oh, Carol!” (Neil Sedaka cover, link to his version)
- “Ain’t It Strange“
- “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)
- “Because the Night“
- “Dancing Barefoot” (link to someone’s video from the night)
- “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.
For 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!