Patti Smith | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com
Patti Smith holds court with covers and classics at The Met Philly
“It better be alright because that’s what’s happening.”
This is the response Patti Smith offered to a gracious fan after having to restart a song midway through her Monday night performance at Philly’s Metropolitan Opera House. It was delivered in good humor but also succinctly summed up Smith’s performance, and her iconoclastic role in music in general. The indomitable “punk poet laureate” has always embodied a no-frills, no-fucks spirit and sincerity that the genre represents at its best. Over a two-hour, sixteen song set that blended classics, covers, and banter, that spirit of spontaneity filled the venue to render it, and the crowd inside it, electric.
Backed by a five-piece band that included both her son Jackson and legendary guitarist Lenny Kaye, Smith arrived on stage with a warm greeting and warmer rendition of “April Fool’s” from her most recent album to date, 2012’s underrated Banga. It was a patient beginning to a night that would grow in intensity on and off stage as the band quickly found a harder, more driving groove, and as the audience rose to their feet to dance, call out to their idol, and rush the stage, security be damned. Smith took it all in stride, checking the more overzealous attendees with warmth and wit and regaling us all with stories of her history in Philadelphia, where she lived up through third grade and learned “all her moves”. Said moves were on full display as she seldom stopped dancing and stalking the stage throughout the night, save for a brief intermission where Kaye led the group through a suite of covers by The Avengers and The Rolling Stones.
Speaking of covers, an unexpected surprise was the number of songs by others that Smith was able to effortless flesh out and mix with selections from her own unimpeachable repertoire. Midnight Oil’s pulsing “Beds Are Burning” proved itself a perfect bedfellow to “Dancing Barefoot” early on, while Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” was a potent, necessary pause to start the encore after the breathless build of the main set. Make no mistake, though, none of these songs could steal the thunder of Patti’s own. Highlights included the aforementioned, intoxicating “Barefoot,” the monumental, always moving “Because the Night” (which inspired the biggest singalong of the evening), and the rollicking, relentless one-two punch of “Land” and “Gloria” at the set’s climax that briefly turned the concert into what felt like a religious revival.
Smith ended the night with “People Have the Power”, a song (and message) that the world needs more than ever. It was a welcome reminder to everyone that their voices mattered and could make great, even necessary things happen. Patti Smith remains a living testament to the necessity of those voices, both ours and hers, to keep the world going. That better be alright because it needs to happen.
Are You Experienced?
My Blakean Year
Beds Are Burning
Beneath the Southern Cross
The American in Me
Because the Night
Pissing in a River
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
People Have the Power