Wednesday 24 January 2018

Review: A gallop down Manhattan's memory lane

Rock: Patti Smith, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

Patti Smith on stage
Patti Smith on stage
Ed Power

Ed Power

Music is just the start when it comes to Patti Smith. She is the original New York street icon - creator of an archetype later inhabited by Chloe Sevigny and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and arguably given a mainstream gloss by Woody Allen in Annie Hall. 

As a musician, Smith has, in contrast, sometimes seemed indifferent towards the obligations of stardom. She is, admittedly, touring her 1977 debut Horses - a concession to the tiresome vogue for artists to perform beloved LPs in their entirety. In other ways, she has displayed little patience for industry convention, often appearing to favour her parallel career as poet and embodiment of the underground spirit of Manhattan's downtown. 

Smith's true gift may be her uncanny charisma. Under a big top on a rainy night, it takes considerable presence to conjure the feckless aura of the late '70s West Village. Smith, though, delivered.

At 68, her husky voice was as powerful as in her heyday while her band brought a muscular sensuality. It was wet and cold and gigs in tents are always a bit rubbish - and yet, from the moment she walked out, silver hair to her shoulders, the inclement conditions were forgotten.

Witnessing a familiar record reprised start to finish can be wearying - like watching a movie you've seen a dozen times already. In Smith's case, the standard misgivings do not apply. The singer rocked and raved and rattled the cage - a punk, a priestess, a performer with an ocean of anger and passion to share.

She was, we discovered, merely getting started. From the wings strode Kevin Shields, the Dubliner behind noisy indie band My Bloody Valentine. He was to play with Smith on her 1988 call to arms 'People Have The Power'. It was a lump in throat moment - one you were not expecting in a muddy field on a dank, greasy evening.

Irish Independent

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