thu 21/10/2021

Patti Smith, Royal Albert Hall review - a wild ride from a musical legend | reviews, news & interviews

Patti Smith, Royal Albert Hall review - a wild ride from a musical legend

Patti Smith, Royal Albert Hall review - a wild ride from a musical legend

A transcendental experience from the poet laureate of punk rock

Patti Smith's Royal Albert Hall performance

Patti Smith has been making rabble rousing punk rock for half a century.

She’s spent a lifetime on the road with rock stars and poets, surfing the charts, bringing music and wisdom to the people in myriad ways from beatnik to mainstream and now here she is at London’s Royal Albert Hall – a gig she says her agent has been trying to land for years.

Grabbing hold of the audience from the get-go with the spoken word “Piss Factory” which ends with those prescient lines “I'm gonna be somebody, I'm gonna get on that train, go to New York City… I'm gonna be a big star and I will never return, Never return, no, never return… Oh, watch me now” she gives fans (old and new – all as loyal) a tour of her greatest hits archive. Patti’s historical backlog of music seems more relevant now than ever, at a time when songs of rebellion and movement building resonate in a way that is unfortunately indicative of the political fuckery of our times. The crowd tunes into the intuition of unrest and need to rise up that her music speaks to, that although rooted in America’s past, is currently prevalent on the streets of London today.

There are orchestrated energy balancers from the mellow acoustic of “Grateful” in which daughter Jesse is welcomed to the stage, telling her Mum her hair looks nice in the process, to the crowd pleasing “Redondo Beach” dedicated to Mr Lee Scratch Perry (RIP). The sweet nostalgia of “My Blakean Year” is gifted to friend Ralph Fiennes and “I’m Free” to the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts. She introduces her electrifying Bob Dylan cover of “One Too Many Mornings” with a coy pre-amble about how she “had a crush on the boy who writ it”.

The entire, magical gig experience swirls around “Dancing Barefoot” which seems to encapsulate Patti’s strange seduction, the lyrics “She is sublimation, She is the essence of thee” echoing her extraordinary ability to draw in everyone and every note in this vast traditional venue and fill every particle with love and an incendiary energy. “Some strange music that… makes me come alive” is this gig personified, and Patti underlines it by telling us “We are living in such troubled times, but children, we have our hearts, minds and our dancing feet”.

She hurls her wit and growl, charm and witchy preachiness – perfected over a lifetime spent cultivating a message of power – to the crowds, willing us to “get up, put your arms up and feel the creative spirit” telling us “We are alive!” until everyone ditches their seats – some for the front of the stage. “Pissing in a River” lights a match that builds a wildfire as “Land/Land of A Thousand Dances” becomes fused with “Gloria” in the most overwhelming mash up of all time. Patti’s magnum opus, “People Have the Power”, dedicated to Jimmy Carter, reaches some kind of level of transcendence, with everyone moving, feeling the music and believing in the message that we can use our voices “to dream, to vote, to strike, to love”. It’s a potent ending to an unforgettable evening.

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“Patti Smith has been making rabble-rousing punk rock for a half a decade” as in five years?

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