Patti smith the House of poetry sunday Oct 1st 2023

There’s a grand piano stage left and two guitars stage right, an acoustic and a Telecaster and Patti’s mic in the middle of the stage.           1st song: GRATEFUL chords G, D and Am. Patti picks up the acoustic, daughter Jesse Paris Smith is on the piano and son Jackson on the electric guitar. Her head voice is very much intact, her diction impeccable. The harmonies with Jesse are sweet and in tune.

She reads a poem she wrote for Robert Mapplethorpe: WILD LEAVES. "Wild leaves are falling, falling to the ground."

A song starts in 6/8, chords A to G. She sings, “I was a wing in heaven blue,” I believe the title is BEAUTIFUL. Near the end she embodies the song with subtle hand gestures full of grace. 

She speaks of William Blake, Van Gogh, Rimbaud and other artists who were shunned when alive yet had the grit, gumption and pure guts to continue creating in the face of obscurity. She then sings, “ A SONG FOR THE WORKER.” Now she’s rockin’, the performance drenched with her punkish Patti attitude. I’m won over. She speaks for those who yearned, churned, burned, who created yet were forgotten, forever lost to history. I digress… One last thing: When will they create a “Tomb for the Unknown Artist” with a never-ending flame? 

A new song, title “We Shall Live Again” (?) I believe I heard the line, “Shake out the ghost dancer”. She waves her hands at the end using the sign language for applause, and the audience responds in kind. She speaks of October 1967 and reads an excerpt from her book Just Kids in honour of Robert Mapplethorpe: AUTUMN SONG by French poet Paul Verlaine.

A sighing begins as the violins of the Autumn song begin… langourous and long.” 

Patti says that although she doesn’t speak French, Paul Verlaine’s poetry is beautiful in any language. 

A song against the war, “Yesterday I saw you standing there lookin’ at the rain… We’d never be the same.” Patti forgets to come in after Jackson’s guitar solo, perhaps because of a couple of his notes that went astray, and then the whole thing falls apart. There follows a hilarious sequence where they’re trying to figure out how to get back into the song, it’s like an open rehearsal, then finally Patti recovers and gets to the end with a rousing, “Build the peaceable kingdom, build it back again.” 

She sings “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan accompanied by son Jackson on the acoustic guitar. I think someone said once that she performs a Dylan song every show she does. This performance was pitch perfect for both of them. 

She speaks again of Mapplethorpe who she says was a very hard worker and who sadly died of Aids at the age of 42. She reads a letter that she wrote to him the day that he died, a letter that he never read. In part it reads, “The sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. You are your most beautiful work of all.” 

Smith says, “So here we are in this House of Poetry. A Shakespeare sonnet is a song. William Blake sang his poetry. So here’s a song about remembering the departed, and to life itself.” And she dedicates this performance to her Abyssinian cat “Cairo” who died just a week ago at the age of 22 years. Jackson’s Telecaster really sings on this song, Patti finishes it with “Cross over little one…” 

Last but not least, Patti Smith talks about peeling potatoes in her kitchen one day when her husband Fred Sonic Smith announces to her that he wants to write a song called “People Have The Power”, thus she set down the lyrics for what I consider to be her most emblematic song. A rare breath of fresh air flew across the stage into the hearts of the happy few who got into the House of Poetry in Paris this night. God bless the Smith Family Comedy Hour! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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