Looking at rock and roll nowadays, you can often find many contrived artists, others who force their antics to live up to the genre’s clichés and those who take it so seriously you’d be hard pressed to see one smile grace their lips. Few have transcended generations of rock ‘n’ roll with such diversity, artistic expression and sheer joy as Patti Smith, so much so it proves an absolute pleasure to see her – at age 65 – put most others out there to shame.
This is not to say rock ‘n’ roll is dying. It’s not. Nor is it fair to say there are no real rock ‘n’ roll artists out there – again, there are. Yet, Patti Smith is in her own little bubble, one that sets her apart from the rest. As she takes to the stage in her casual attire, her smile lights up the room. From talking about heroin to alien fingers in her first duo alone, she shows one side of her musical talents, an eerie, more elegant persona. As she delicately strokes the air, her movements fluid yet free, she seems in her own world.
This calm doesn’t last for long. She talks comfortably, recalling anecdotes that both pay testament to her friends or bring some quirk to the occasion. The stand out story of the evening proved to be her puzzling over a photograph she took of a painting on a tiled wall. She puzzled over this for years, yet the day of the show she walked into her hotel and – bam! – there it was, the painting in question. Though she claims no one’s interested in the story, the entire ABC laps up every word she said.
Stunning throughout, she let her band take the musical forefront as she left the stage, reappearing at the barrier where she took time to meet everyone down the front. Some got handshakes, others got hugs, some got a quick hello with a warm smile. In the midst of this, she danced along the barrier without a care in the world. It’s hard not to look at her in this state and hope to be so fantastic at that age. In fact, being a fraction as fantastic as Patti Smith at any age would be quite something.
It’s as the evening draws to a close, the rock ‘n’ roll attitude comes to the forefront, proving a completely unforgettable finale. In the midst of an aggressive rendition of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Nigger’ and commanding ‘Power To The People’, she calls for support for famed punks Pussy Riot, proclaiming that the Russian government should be proud to have such strong women, capable of making their own opinion, that they should not be chastised for their strength. Though there’s been widespread calls of support, the passion that floods through her as she screams riles you up more than before.
She has it all. The delicate vocals, the rock ‘n’ roll roars, the dainty movements, the carefree dancing, the power to flat out rock, a life full of anecdotes that leave fans hanging on every word and the humility to pull it off. She is free, uncontrived and remains a true wonder in music, so much so it proves no surprise this was a sell out. With so much diversity and power in her musical constraints, it proved a completely flawless evening.