Patti Smith entered St Giles In The Fields, a small but beautiful working church built in the 18th Century in the heart of London with her band and a big smile on her face under her broad brimmed hat. The pastor that introduced her spoke of her love for the church, and that her appearance this evening was in aid of the restoration of the church’s organ which has pipes dating from the 17th Century. I had waited 29 years to see Patti Smith, and despite the lack of her more prurient material like Because The Night and Gloria, I was not disappointed.
Renditions of other people’s songs made up a large part of the set list, including a beautiful version of Neil Young’s Helpless, and the evening’s climax, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, but as Smith observed, she had been listening to Maria Callas the previous night, who had “covered Puccini” etc.
She told of her love for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and the first chapter of the book where, due to their father being away at the civil war, there is little money for presents but the girls each receive a copy of Imitation of Christ, and how Smith had wanted a copy of this book for many years and had finally picked it up in a bookshop near Charing Cross Road. She then quoted from the text.
I really enjoyed the poetry interspersed between the songs, particularly The Geometry Blinked Ruin Unimaginable, inspired by visiting Picasso’s Guernica in the years it was housed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art before Franco died.
These days Smith comes across as someone’s tiny and somewhat hippyish grandmother, which is endearing really, and the audience were forgiving of her forgetting the lines now and again, most notably to Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.
(A story from the old Rocknerd that got lost in Slash’s incredible crappiness – d.)