As she herself professes mid set, ‘Patti Smith seemed semi distracted throughout the night’ and it’s clear when she reads her written word from ‘Just Kids’, the first of her literary works, that she is apprehensive. Whether that’s down to a lack of conviction in her ability or because the words are a touching ode to her friend Robert Mapplethorpe is anyone’s guess. Still, as soon as she begins to sing, the sparkle returns to her eye and confidence in hand, she sings and dances her way through the likes of Redondo Beach and Dancing Barefoot with the mark of a true star. Combined with Piano, fiddle and drums, she spends the evening saluting Robert in a variety of formats as if Union Chapel is host to a memorial in his honour.
Unlike other acts her age, Patti has not returned to the stage with a rehash of old tunes, but instead an alternative creation in the form of her book, from which she intersperses selected readings with their complimentary songs. It’s this combination which brings her extensive back catalogue to life and her career which spans three decades and ten studio albums suddenly has new meaning, in the context of her memoirs. The likes of Because The Night, her chart success with Bruce Springsteen, have deeper poignancy as she recounts from her book, how Robert always longed for her chart success and it’s this humbling side to her performance which warms to audience to a standing ovation and sees them submerge towards the stage for this much loved hit.
The fact that Patti has not lost sight of her roots, despite her acclaim makes it impossible not to warm to her and as she meanders her way through prose and song, interspersed with a large helping of humour its clear tonight’s audience are transfixed by her ability to captivate. The rebel in Patti has also not been lost, as demonstrated when she rounds off the evening with The Jackson Song for her son, despite his apparent hate of the tune. This is followed quickly by People Have The Power for daughter Jessie and it’s this point at which emotion seems to override. Lyrics forgotten, Patti spits to the stage floor and lets out an almighty ‘fuck’ before she giggles and realises she’s stood abreast a pulpit.
An evening punctuated by energetic performances and heartfelt recollections. Patti spends the evening meandering down memory lane, taking the audience on a journey of her lifetime, from the poverty filled days of her youth, to the gut wrenching moment of Robert’s death. Perfect she isn’t, Patti she is and this Godmother of punk showed she’s got more guts that most modern day stars combined.
Just Kids was released by Bloomsbury on 1st February 2010