A few hours after Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which he gave himself a pat on the back for the current state of the economy and laid out agendas that elicited doubtful glares from the Republicans, the venerable Patti Smith took the audience at the sold-out Crystal Ballroom on a passionate and a surreal trip. In most cases, concertgoers would be put off by excessive bantering, but last night they hung onto the every word of the “punk poet laureate,” as if Smith were delivering the rock version of the State of the Union address.the profile on Smith that appeared in last week's paper, adds his own takeaway:
Before the 68-year-old artist crescendoed her set with“Gandhi” and “People Have the Power,” Smith started the evening on a lighter note with her love of television, mocking how Boyhood is only doing what TV shows have been doing for years, remarking on her fascination with the G-rated '70s/'80s series Little House on the Prairie. Smith dwelled on an episode where Michael Landon’s character, Charles Ingalls, gets infected with typhoid and how Smith thought she may have contracted the disease from watching the program, saying “I don’t just watch TV; I enter it.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee also expressed her love for Portland, describing her pre-show time at Powell’s where she purchased a hard-to-find book of Godard’s, and at the Roxy, where she had cheese and grits with black coffee—mundane details that somehow translated into poetry through Smith’s interpretation. Then the topic transmutated into those who have left this mortal coil: her late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, as she recounted the first kiss with him on “25th Floor,” a tribute to Amy Winehouse with “This Is the Girl,” and Kurt Cobain, with perhaps the best rendition of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Seeing one of my heroes for the first time live, Smith’s fervor and charisma shamed my teenage rebellion. As I clung to the last energy cells in my sleep-deprived body, the rock icon reminded me that time is irrelevant. The only downside of the experience was that my photo pass had somehow come off by the time I reached the pit—a sore loss to my collection. But I was the only one allowed to shoot, even if it was for the first two songs from a tiny spot at the side of the stage. Isn’t that like a photojournalist getting to click away at the president’s speech?
Halfway through the concert, my date, who is not all that familiar with Patti Smith and her band, was moved to exclaim, "Those fuckers can rock out." That statement accurately describes the performance last night. The band played harder than bands two-thirds their age, and Patti's growl has only gotten more fierce and powerful over time. She talked at length between songs, mostly about Little House on the Prairie, which she admitted to watching earlier in the day. Toward the end of the set, she hissed, "I'd rather talk about a television show than have to listen to whatever our shit-ass politicians have to say."Lots more photos of last night's show after the jump!
Guitarist Lenny Kaye gave a shout-out to our local luminary, saying, "This goes out to Fred Cole, from the Lollipop Shoppe," then he and bassist Tony Shanahan took turns singing lead on two Love songs. During the encore, Patti invited a young, androgynous kid in a black, leather jacket, standing in the front row, up on stage to play guitar with the band. Lenny guided the kid through the chord changes, and the kid handled the pressure like a champ. The torch has been passed.