Thursday 20 October 2016

Review: Patti Smith plays Horses

Patti Smith
Patti Smith

"JESUS died for somebody's sins, but not mine…"

Now there's an opening line and a half. A silver-haired Patti Smith almost didn't get to share it with us. Seriously, did you see the weather at the weekend? Biblical, wasn't it?

Promoters panicked - Patti was already here, the gig was supposed to be outdoors. "We're gonna need a roof!" they cried.

Luckily, Forbidden Fruit had just wrapped, leaving behind a big blue circus tent. Sorted.

Is this a good time to question the merits of outdoor concerts in Ireland? No? Okay then.

Well, let's just say that Patti Smith in a theatre would have been off the hook. Patti Smith in a chilly, damp big-top, on the other hand, was freakin' deadly.

Not much of a difference there, the main attraction showcasing an ability to transport minds and bodies to a warmer, groovier place via the medium of rock 'n' roll. Handy skill, that.

Poet, rocker, New York icon, Smith was in town to perform her seminal debut, 1975's Horses, from start to finish. A mesmerising, punk-rock blitzkrieg down memory lane. If every other classic album knees-up carried even a smidge of the charisma and flair unrolling before our eyes tonight, the world would be a better place.

An impassioned and compelling figure, Smith (68) brings us back to a time when the idea of re-working a Van Morrison tune had yet to become a staple of karaokeville (Gloria sounds amazing tonight). Smith's vocal - husky, spirited, angry - is in splendid shape.

She sings, she howls, she waves and she spits. She is the original high priestess of punk and in revisiting the songs that kick-started the party, Patti Smith has unearthed a vigorous and wholly satisfying groove. Flanked by a resilient and resourceful backing band, Smith's run-through of Free Money almost tears the roof off our tent. True, the spoken-word elements would work better in a proper venue, and things get patchy after Horses reaches its conclusion.

Thankfully, Smith remembers to tack on a few greatest hits (the brilliant Because the Night included). A rapturous performance, Patti Smith never got to flaunt Horses' wares the first time around in Ireland. Forty years on, and she has finally made up for it.

Rating ****

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