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Patti Smith is still truly revolutionary

Patti Smith is almost 60, and still rockin! Her show tonight was amazing, astonishing, unbelievable, marvelous, and any other synonym for "Fucking Awesome!" that I can think of. She has never been afraid to mix politics with her music and poetry, and has a well-earned reputation for standing up for what is right.
I just came from seeing Patti Smith at the Crystal Ballroom, and I gotta say - she rocks! I'm not completely familiar with Patti's music (I admit, the only album I own currently is "Horses"), but I knew enough that I was willing to pay $25 to see this legend, and she didn't disappoint. (Before criticizing the ticket price, remember this is a fucking rock legend I'm talking about, and she could easily charge 2 or 3 times that much and get away with it.)

Patti's almost 60 years old, but she has more energy and more intensity than I've seen in a performer for a long time. It was one of the best shows I've seen in my life, and I've been to a lot of shows. If you aren't familiar with her, I suggest you go out and get "Horses" just for starters and see where she takes you from there. If you aren't interested in her music, her poetry and her politics are equally right-on.

Her whole set was astounding, and she played for about 2 hours. She worked the stage like no other performer I've ever seen, and was obviously extremely comfortable in front of the crowd after playing concerts for so many years (decades!). The last song before the encore was "People Have The Power," ("I believe everything we dream / can come to pass through our union / we can turn the world around / we can turn the earth's revolution / we have the power / people have the power") and she pumped up the whole crowd by reminding us that we can only change the world by coming together, while images of the WTO protests played in the background.

But the best was the last song - "Rock n Roll Nigger". Like I said, I don't know all of Patti's music (or even a fraction of it), but I imagine that this song created quite a controversy when it first came out ("Outside of society, they're waitin' for me / Outside of society, if you're looking / that's where you'll find me"). She really let it rip - singing, screaming with crazy intensity - "We are all niggers! We are all outsiders!" She railed against corporations, advertising, government, and everything I and the rest of audience detest. She talked/sang about how we have lost our spiritually and we need to regain it, and take back our lives from corporate control.

At one point, someone in the audience yelled, "Patti for president!" She smiled, and said the first thing she would do if she was president was make Ralph Nader president. Then, she said she would give everyone a handful of seeds and clean water, and have everyone plant trees - apple trees, peach trees, every kind of tree, and then we would all be happy. She also dedicated one of her songs to Roberto Clemente, the baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates who was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve in 1972 while delivering aid to the earthquake-striken people of Nicaragua.

Patti is not only a singer, but a poet as well. Although I've never read any of her books, twice during the show she read directly out of her writings and it was incredible. She is truly a performance artist in the best sense of the word. To see her is really an intense, eye-opening experience, and I encourage everyone to check her out if you don't already know her music, her poetry, or her politics.

Lyrics to Patti Smith songs

Agreed 19.Aug.2004 07:38


Patty continues to be a model we can look to as an example of authenticity in living, aspiration towards integrity and truth in living. Her art and life are intertwined, and while she performs for us (at our bequest) she maintains her own truth in her music and her art. Many of us can look to her as a mentor. And yes, she did kick ass mightily with her words, music and images.

also 19.Aug.2004 11:45


its interesting that ive read in a book about the doors ,how a frustrated jim morrison harangued an audience and said ''you're all niggers, the revolution already happened''.

Sweatin and dancin 19.Aug.2004 12:41


Great post and review of the show Jennifer. I was there as well and my first thought as we were waiting to leave was, 'that was one of the best shows I have seen in a long time'.
It was one of those times for me when there was actual magic in the air, an unbelievable feeling.

I'm a long time fan and I've seen her now 4 times and this was the best performance by far.

She opened the show reading from her poetry, but the other two times when she read, she was reading lyrics from her songs (Birdland, and I think the other was Break it up.)

Her message was uplifting, spiritual, real. TELL IT SISTER!!!

Tell it sister, indeed 20.Aug.2004 09:44


Yes, great show, it was amazing to see Patti and the band go full throttle for just under 2hours.
She really has a love for Portland that is beyond the famous-rock-star-passing through-town-hello-goodbye usual fare.

Her politics has never changed in the 30+ years she has performed. I wish more main-stream/popular performers had an ounce of the conviction she has for change.
Although she does work for the man (Arista, and now Columbia)it has never affected her art.
Why don't more performers in 2004 have the courage of their convictions? Is it about money? (Duh) The Patti Smith formula shatters that myth.

Or maybe they don't share the same convictions.
Maybe most performers just don't give a rat's ass, except maybe a rare sound-bite on Vh1 denouncing the war.
Forget tweedledum and tweedledee, I would love to see a Patti Smith v. Ted Nugent debate on the issues.

"Before criticizing the ticket price, remember this is a fucking rock legend I'm talking about, and she could easily charge 2 or 3 times that much and get away with it.)"
I paid 23$ for the show. Who else with the cred. of Patti Smith is going to charge such a low fee? Springsteen? nope. Stones? nope. Prince? He'll be here soon and tickets are going for 49.50-79.00$.