Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patti Smith at Damrosch Park Bandshell

Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent her early childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before her family moved to Pitman, New Jersey, and later to Deptford Twp., New Jersey. In 1967, the 20-year-old moved to Manhattan and joined its underground music and art scene. By 1974, Smith began transforming her poetry into music, initially with guitarist and fellow rock journalist Lenny Kaye, and gradually evolving into incorporating additional musicians to form a full band. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith has released 11 albums, the most recent being 2012's Banga.

Tonight's concert at Lincoln Center's Out-of-Doors series was billed as A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Tony Shanahan, but in essence turned out to be a Patti Smith band concert with only a few minutes of readings by Smith. Smith began by welcoming the audience, reading from her 2010 memoirs, Just Kids, and singing "Wing" accompanied by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, on piano and Tony Shanahan on bass. Again she read from Just Kids, then from Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." From there it was a concert, with Smith accompanied by guitarists Lenny Kaye and Jack Petruzzelli, bassist Shanahan and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Jesse Paris Smith played piano at the beginning and end of the performance. The 90-minute set included some of her better-known songs, "Dancing Barefoot", "People Have the Power" and "Because the Night," and covers of Prince's "When Doves Cry," the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" and the Who's "My Generation." Smith's spoke frequently with a punkish, rebellious attitude, but the set was far from the experimental punk arrangements of her early days. Smith has matured, and now straight, driving rock and roll fare sandwiched a large chunk of smooth, tender songs. Some of her rambling admonitions to members of the audience between songs were abrasive, but her crisp singing and her melodic lyrics were endearingly passionate. Aided by slickly polished arrangements and musicianship, Smith was as real as an artist could be, warts and all.

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