The punk poet laureate and the priestess of raw passion, Patti Smith, played a free show at NYC’s Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage on Sunday evening to a packed and fully vaccinated crowd, all of whom were all extremely enthusiastic to see this New York City legend light up the night. Smith played a major role on the 70’s art and punk scenes and was a staple act of legendary venues like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, where her shows merged her lust for poetry and self-expression with raw raucous power and ecstasy. It was a gorgeous night for a show in the park, and she made multiple mentions of the beautiful weather, as well as the full harvest moon that was rising over the treetops, to which she even dedicated one of her poems called “Perfect Moon.”
She thanked all the crowd for being safe during these pandemic times and acknowledged the tragic loss of life we have all been suffering through as of late, and death and loss are subjects Smith knows all too well as throughout her lifetime she has lost many of those closest to her. The second song in the night’s set she dedicated to the recently departed legend Lee “Scratch” Perry, playing the reggae-inspired classic “Redondo Beach” from their first album, and whom they also played over the sound system extensively before the show. Later on in the night she also played Stevie Wonder’s “Blame It on the Sun” and a more recent track “Beneath the Southern Cross” and eulogized them to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts who also died last month, and whom she also she called “one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.”
Patti Smith’s amazing band was her family, by both blood and by history. The legendary guitarist Lenny Kaye, whom has played with her since the early days of her career and continues to amaze in his stylish urban cowboy outfits, headed the group up in stylish fashion. Also along for the ride was drummer Jay Dee Daugherty who has been busting out the beats for Smith since the mid 70’s, and keyboardist and bassist Tony Shanahan who has backed her faithfully since the 90’s. Her own children also helped turn out the night, with her daughter Jesse Smith, who is already an accomplished musician in her own right, and her son Jackson Smith who provided many of the night’s towering guitar solo summits. One of the coolest parts of the show was when Kaye took the lead and sang another Charlie Watts tribute with the Stones classic “I’m Free” which also had a bit of Lou Reed’s “ Walk on the Wild Side” in the middle, to which he dedicated to deceased CBGB owner Hilly Krystal.
Other highlights of the night included a wistful take on the late 70’s classic “Dancing Barefoot,” her raw and biting cover of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” and, of course, her classic ballad “Because the Night” where I kind of half expected the song’s co-composer Bruce Springsteen to come out and duet, but in the cautious times of COVID, that would sadly probably not happen. The night ended with Patti going back to her beginnings with a merging of “Land” and building up with rapturous passion to the wild cover Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” both off her seminal 1974 debut album Horses. Patti Smith is still a stunning force of nature to witness live, and every time I have been blessed enough to see her perform I feel a little more inspired to create and live life to its fullest.
Article: Dean Keim