When the godmother of punk offers you a free in-store concert at Amoeba, you don’t hesitate, you brave the storm – yep there was a big one in LA on Thursday – you brave the late afternoon work meeting, and you brave the LA traffic, terrible on Sunset Boulevard for some reasons that night. And many people had braved all the things above, just like me, so that the store was already packed when I arrived around 5 pm.
Patti Smith arrived on stage with her band, looking exactly as I remember her – I had seen her a few years ago at the same place – with disheveled long hair and an oversized black jacket, looking cool and serene at the same time, using her arms a lot, speaking slowly with her deep voice. Despite the large crowd, there was an imposing silence,… ‘You are so quiet’ she said after her first song ‘Redondo Beach’, a song she said she sang at their first in-store ever, as she couldn’t stop praising Amoeba and its American record store glory.
Nevertheless, she had to play a few songs from her new album ‘Banga’ – named after a dog in Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ – and she did, starting with ‘April Fool’, a rather poppy one carrying her unique signature of poetic storytelling.
Patti Smith has always been a sort of mystery to me, singing epic songs like ‘Because the Night’, and ‘People have the Power’, and writing lyrics stuffed with literary, historical and religious references, being popular and intellectual at the same time, and alternating between rock goddess and muse of the rock stars.
She was singing, reciting about mother nature or rocking with her band, having the imposing but comforting presence of a priestess of the record store, ‘second to church and temple’ as she put it. She also introduced a song, a gentle gospelic ballad written in the memory of Amy Winehouse, and simply called ‘This is the Girl’, just after singing this 'Fuji-San' song dedicated to the Japanese people having suffered from last year's earthquake, then inviting people to her show the next day at the Wiltern.
And Patti was talkative, giving her opinion about TV shows, ‘This is what Obama and Romney should debate about’, she joked the same night the two vice presidents were debating on national TV. Talking even more, and watching the very quiet crowd, she added, ‘If I were a comedian, I’d do hari kari,… No reaction, it’s too fucking early, I’ll be back at 2 am!’
She was there to promote her first collection of original material since 2004, and triumphed with ‘People Have the Power’, that she sang to conclude her set on Thursday night, adding ‘People have the power to vote’ a few times and truly making the crowd react at last!
This is the girl
People have the Power
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