PATTI SMITH – ” Live At City Winery “

Posted: April 11, 2021 in MUSIC
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The publicist for City Winery said Patti Smith would be playing live there last Friday night, There is it, shiny and new, dazzling venue, a new City Winery replacing the one evicted from Varick Street by Disney/ABC, and also standing in for the recently departed nearby Highline Ballroom. It’s got a gorgeous concert hall, a separate restaurant on the water, all kinds of private nooks and crannies, and lots of good wine.

The new City Winery opened briefly last year, then had to close again. This week it re-opened with a selection of musical performers. But Patti Smith? She is royalty, no? They call musical acts “artists” but she is an actual artist: rocker, poet, memoirist, essayist. Patti Smith transcends all genres. There she was on the new City Winery stage with her son, Jackson Smith, and multi-talented Tony Shanahan. Just the three of them. Shanahan plays bass guitar, upright bass, piano, and sings. Jackson, whose father was the late Fred “Sonic” Smith, is astonishing guitarist. He makes the instrument sing. And Patti is, well, everything.

This trio played a gig in March,  A year had passed before that, when they played the Fillmore West in San Francisco. That was their last show. So here they were, in front a socially distant crowd, in a soaring, gorgeous venue made of what looked like woven wood, or a very expensive basket. The sound was perfection, too. even from the balcony, where the press is sprinkled behind a low plexiglass buffer.

The show was winning because it was so ad hoc and loose. Patti recently turned 74, she says, but you’d never know it from her lithe movements on stage, and her mellifluous voice that seems richer and more textured than ever. It’s hard to remember that she was once considered “punk.” She is anything but that. Her music is bathed in melodies and hooks that are actually quite sweet, a counterpoint to her trenchant lyrics.

There was talk of her late comrades, Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard. There was a 200th birthday reading  of a Beaudelaire poem, “Be Drunk.” There were the hits, from 1978, “Because the Night” and “Dancing Barefoot,” rendered in a stripped down fashion, more recent songs that should be classics, like “Grateful” and “April Fool.” There were also a couple of covers that should be recorded: Stevie Wonder’s “Blame it on the Sun,” and two by Bob Dylan including “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” and “One Too Many Mornings.” The show ended with a song dedicated to all the people we’ve lost, called “Ballad of the Southern Cross.” (I swear I had visions of Tom Verlaine.) And then “People Got the Power,” which brought fists raised in the air from the separated tables and a standing ovation. What a way to come back to life after a year in purgatory. (Patti’s daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, joined in on the piano.)

The Patti Smith Trio plays again tonight, Saturday night. Then send Clive Davis a thank you note on Facebook for signing Patti Smith in 1975 to Arista Records. (PS They each deserve Kennedy Center Honours.) The trio played one of my favourite songs, “Peaceable Kingdom.” 

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