PATTI SMITH GROUP
Arguably, Patti Smiths first European tour in May 1976 did more than kickstart her own international career. It also opened eyes to the fact that music was changing not through the auspices of the Sex Pistols and co, but via Smiths wholesale revision of everything people expected from a performer a female a poetess an American. Punk did not start with Patti, but it was she who gave it its first serious kick in the pants, and nothing was the same from then on.
At first, this doesnt look like being one of Smiths better gigs. Her voice is certainly a little out of sorts, and as early as "Kimberley" the second song of the night the band sounds ever-so-slightly perfunctory, with only Ivan Krals lead guitar trying to hack anything fresh out of the rhythm, and maybe push Patti into another dimension. Instead she makes a glorious hash of telling the audience a meandering joke, and ultimately wins the crowd over by force of personality, as opposed to the evenings performance.
An error-strewn "Redondo Beach," a tentative (if pretty) "Free Money," and a lazy intro to "Privilege" are each punctuated by lengthy silences while the band does who-knows-what on stage and then suddenly everything falls into space, a minute or so into "Privilege," as if Smith has just remembered who (and where) she is, and from thereon in, the performance is peeerless. "Pissing In The River" pounds with laconic beauty, "25th Floor" blazes, "Aint It Strange" hypnotizes, and an unholy rap through what would one day become "Radio Ethiopia" astonishes.
Its as if shes
suddenly decided to place Horses behind her, and is now taking
us on a tour of the albums she hasnt even made yet, knowing that
they will travel wherever she wants them to go. Shes chatting more,
spooling out anecdotes that may or may not lead anywhere, but the audience
loves them regardless, and she rewards their devotion by spreading out
further than on any other contemporary live recording. By the time "Land"
rips into the room, the PSG is blazing so hard that the closing "Gloria,"
and the encore "My Generation" are almost unnecessary. Paris
long ago got what it came for and, for all the misgivings that unfolded
at the outset, this emerges as one of the crucial early
Smith performances. -
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