Patti Smith at the London Palladium
Patti Smith knocked the ball out of the park with her sheer presence at the Palladium last night. She graced the stage in a long black blazer and dishevelled pigtails, invoking intense reactions from adoring fans young and old. To the tune of Redondo Beach, she eased us in at the height of her 75 years with a voice more powerful than ever. Her band not only performed, they were the music itself.
The iconic songwriter paid homage to many great artists throughout the show. There was a chilling hush as she read Holy by Allen Ginsberg, devouring and spitting out each word with earnest. Her covers of Bob Dylan’s The Wicked Messenger and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush were deeply personal, yet faithful to the originals’ vocal styles.
Indeed, Smith’s vocal control was impressive: she held long, resonant notes without faltering, effortless, as though possessed by the meaning within each word. Meanwhile, bassist Tony Shanahan dug unabashedly into his Fender Jazz as he alternated between lead melody lines and fleshy riffs. Drummer Jay Dee Daugherty played so musically, he was barely noticeable – aside from his brilliant spiked fedora. Shanahan and longstanding guitarist Lenny Kaye also shone on vocals, the latter covering Iggy Pop’s I Wanna Be Your Dog and the former singing alongside Patti on several numbers.
Sunday night was a rare and much-needed vision of an ageing rock star not jaded by endless repetition of her hits. Smith performed Because the Night and Free Money like they had been written last year, getting the audience on their feet for almost half the show. Though the Palladium was packed out, it still felt like an intimate performance. Desperate fans heckled the panting rockstar between almost every song – “I love you Patti! You’re a legend!” to which she replied, with swagger: “I’m the saddest-looking icon I’ve ever seen.” One admirer begged her from the balcony to take a letter she had written.
Beneath the Southern Cross led to an epic instrumental battle between Tony and Patti’s son, Jackson Smith, on guitar, as the lead singer stepped back. Crystal-clear stage sound meant that every instrument cut through perfectly.
The grand finale, Gloria was an orgy of dancing and singing in the theatre hall. Smith held up her electric guitar, declaring, “This is the weapon of our generation!” and proceeding to rip apart its strings in punk fashion as feedback screamed out the end of the concert.
Fans were left reeling. Many folks hung around outside after the show to take pictures in front of the sign and rehash every detail. Sunday night with Patti Smith was truly a journey back to the 70s, when cries for freedom and peace seemed to have true meaning.
Photos: Monika S Jakubowska
For further information and future events visit Patti Smith’s website here.
Listen to Gloria here: