Patti Smith – Horses – Sydney State Theatre

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Review by John Snelson :: Photos by Robert Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith – Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith – one word … WOW !

Now aged 70 or so, she is still that rhythmic, artistic, full-on performer who glides and dances across the stage, totally captivating the audience.

She holds them in her hands with care and a sort of gentleness and respect – like the doves in the Mapplethorpe photo that seems to capture her persona in part;  but have no doubt, the no-bullshit punk is still alive, the fire is not out, the girl can’t help it, the colourful, straight from the heart language is still there in the songs and presentation to the audience.

She is a natural crowd pleaser, on stage she can do no wrong because she is so natural. No truck here.

Backdropped on stage by this towering, defiant and yet laconic B & W photograph (see left) by old time boyfriend, lover, art enthusiast et al, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (from the sleeve of the origina album}, she reprises her own first album Horses in full and in the same order of songs, backed by a fantastic band :-

  • long-haired Lenny Kaye, guitar (and on a couple of tracks, bass) – who played on the original album in 1975
  • JD Daugherty, drums (and for one track, bass) – who also played on the original album in 1975
  • Piano (and later bass), the towering figure of blond Tony Shanahan
  • Andy York, bass (and later lead guitar).

Photo – Robert Mapplethorpe

Kicking off with the Van Morrison masterpiece mantra “G-L-O-R-I-A”, the whackos in the stalls were soon on their feet which is a bit of a “no-no” at The State Theatre – more like the behaviour one might expect at The Enmore and rather disappointing as many of us go to enjoy and listen to the music whilst also getting into the swing so-to-speak, without ruining the night for those behind. Okay, so I am becomeing a bit of an owld fart, but I would hate to see this become the norm at The State.  Save that stuff for the Enmore and The Metro and other blood houses.

Nevertheless, in spite of a failing voice and bronchial strain, Patti Smith rocks on with her fused blend of punk, jazz and repetive, crescendoing 3 chord anthems that build up and swell into an unforgiving and relentless rhythm that appeals to our animal instincts as in Birdland, by which time crowd participation is in full swing.

The music is good, it is strong, it is performed with gusto, accuracy, it’s together.  It’s dreamy, it’s sort of poetic and yet Patti Smith herself generates so much energy – gosh this is one of the best shows I have ever seen.  Whoo-hoo. Let it rip.

With the Horses album out of the way, Tony Shanahan lopes out from behind the keys and picks up the bass – what’s this ?  What’s going on ?

Oh, that’s not it ?  We are going to get another show ?  Oh yes indeed.  We are.  A new energy is immediately identified in the band, the audience, Patti Smith herself and hey, even me. I am not on my feet yet, but nearly.  I am going to crack.  Another mouthful of Maltesers.

This was something else. From her past, Patti pulls out of the bag Because The Night which she wrote with Bruce Springsteen, People Have the Power and if I am not mistaken, My Generation got a dynamic whirl and another slice of “G-L-O-R-I-A” might have been in there too.

The Who’s stuttering Townshend classic, was delivered with Patti Smith back in full punk mode, feed-backing the guitar through the amps and shredding most of the strings. At one point I thought she was going to start smashing the amps, but no, those days are gone – but not the spirit.

The spirit lives on in Patti Smith.

Patti Smith is still to play at Bluesfest on Thursday, 13th May this week, then as below

  • Apr 13 Bluesfest, Byron Bay
  • Apr 16 Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
  • Apr 17 Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall, Melbourne
  • Apr 18 Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre, Melbourne
  • Apr 20 Festival Hall Melbourne,
  • Apr 24 Sydney Opera House, Sydney