Patti Smith at the Roundhouse
When one envisions the high priestess of punk poetry, certain images and ideas come to mind. We recall accounts describing how she shrieks, spits and howls her way through songs. She is a woman who effortlessly defied all kinds of cultural norms and resuscitated a fading rock and roll scene. She is the woman who recovered from falling on stage at Glastonbury by saying, “I fell on my f**kin’ ass … because I am a f**kin’ animal”. At 72 years old she is still every bit the defiant female and punk-rock icon but now slightly less rough around the edges. Patti Smith’s Words and Music at the Roundhouse delivered a heartfelt evening of poetry from William Blake and Virginia Woolf, covers from friends U2 and Lou Reed, songs spanning across 40 years and anecdotes from her critically acclaimed memoirs Just Kids and M Train.
She dispensed various stories with seamless hilarity, such as how she decided to don some golden boots in homage to Robert Burns (as they burn brightly in the light) instead of attempting to read Scottish, or telling the tale of her pilgrimage to find the grave of the man who invented glasses to thank him for helping her to see again. She gave a fervent reading of Virginia Woolf’s The Wave as her daughter Jessie accompanied on the piano. She took a step back in awe, beaming smugly over at her son Jackson as he ripped through the guitar solo of Pissing in a River.
At one point Smith seemed visibly displeased by the lack of activity in the audience, who were motionless, awestruck from experiencing Patti Smith live and in the flesh. Eventually, the artist urged the room to get on their feet for Because the Night and declared that next time she comes they’re “ripping out the f**kin’ seats”. Many rushed to the stage to catch a closer glimpse of the Godmother of Punk and envelop themselves in the empowering rhythm.
Smith exposed every side of her soul that evening. She gave us the poet, the punk, the performer and the proud mother. As she discussed outliving her greatest love and dearest friends, expressing her hope of growing old enough to claim Virginia Woolf’s walking stick from the New York Public Library, we couldn’t help but sit there and hope for her to live on forever.
Photos: John Williams
For further information and future events visit Patti Smith’s website here.
Watch the video People Have the Power here: