REVIEW

 

PATTI SMITH GROUP
Paris 1976: REMASTERED [no label 1CD Torrent: 82877]
Live at Elysee Montmatre, Paris, France, May 13, 1976. Lineup: Patti Smith - vocals; Lenny Kaye - guitar; Jay Dee Daughtery - drums; Ivan Kral - bass,guitar,back,voc; Richard Sohl - piano. VG AUD stereo.

Arguably, Patti Smith’s 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 Smith’s 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 doesn’t look like being one of Smith’s 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 Kral’s 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 evening’s 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, "Ain’t It Strange" hypnotizes, and an unholy rap through what would one day become "Radio Ethiopia" astonishes.

It’s as if she’s suddenly decided to place Horses behind her, and is now taking us on a tour of the albums she hasn’t even made yet, knowing that they will travel wherever she wants them to go. She’s 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. - Dave Thompson

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March 21, 2008