Thursday, December 19, 2013

Patty Smyth at the Gramercy Theatre

Brooklyn native Patty Smyth was 15 years old when she played her first gig at Folk City in Greenwich Village. She spent the next few years honing her singing and songwriting by performing short sets at Catch A Rising Star in between then-unknown comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, Larry David and Chris Rock. Guitarist Zack Smith asked her to front the pop rock band he was forming, Scandal, in 1981. A year later, thanks to MTV play, the band hit with the song “Goodbye to You” and two years later, “The Warrior.” The band split in 1985, and Smyth sang backup on albums by Don Henley and the Hooters. Eddie Van Halen then asked her to replace David Lee Roth as lead singer in Van Halen but she declined the offer, as she was eight months pregnant. She married punk rocker Richard Hell in 1985 and together they had a daughter. When the marriage failed in 1987, she launched a solo career. In the early 1990s she had a hit single, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough," a duet sung with Henley, and co-wrote and performed with James Ingram the song "Look What Love Has Done" for the 1994 film, Junior. She married tennis pro John McEnroe in 1997 and together they had two daughters. In 2004, VH1 recruited Smyth and the surviving members of Scandal for a Bands Reunited episode, and the band experienced a short-lived revival with tours and recordings. Other than a few concert appearances and film commissions, Smyth has been missing from the music world.

Smyth returned to her hometown stage tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, singing old songs, new songs and Christmas songs to fans, friends and family, including at least two of her daughters. Once a rocker during the new wave invasion, she is now 56 years old and more inclined to adult contemporary music. The band rocked, but by today’s standards sounded very controlled, with occasional short and precise instrumental breaks as filler between verses and choruses. Smyth’s voice was huskier and a bit more gravelly than in the 80s. Her singing sounded fine, but was rather unexceptional. Were it not for her short history of familiar songs, the show would have been rather uneventful. But then there were the Christmas songs, and it is hard to fault anyone who includes holiday songs in their December repertoire. In the end, Smyth’s show was enjoyable for those fans who were there, but those who were not there did not miss much.

Visit Patty Smyth at