Patti Smith Returns

December 30th, 2010

Patti Smith – The Bowery Ballroom – December 29, 2010

Last night Patti Smith began the first show of her annual three-night Bowery Ballroom run with some good-natured taunting. “You’re insane!” she told the crowd. “This is the night we do just so I can get ready for tomorrow!” Sure enough, minutes later, Smith forgot some lyrics to the song “Break It Up,” from her debut album, Horses. While the band paused for Smith to collect her thoughts, she smiled and jokingly reassured us, “This is all gonna turn out all right.” And things certainly did seem to turn out just fine.

In fact, the spontaneous atmosphere at the show provided the opportunity for Smith to respond to some of the endless requests and comments from the audience, as well as tell stories behind song lyrics or moments in her career, such as her heartfelt introduction to a cover of “Strawberry Fields,” with Smith recounting a story of her weekly routine during a difficult time many years ago, when a trip to a diner for an endless cup of coffee, a chocolate doughnut and a quarter’s worth of the Beatles song on the jukebox “made it all better.”

As the show continued, Smith and her band ran through commanding versions of “My Blakean Year,” “Free Money,” “Mother Rose” and “Pissing in a River,” with breaks in between for banter ranging from Smith’s sex life to her love of Law & Order. Seeming to enjoy these causal chats just as much as her fans, Smith followed up a nostalgic introduction to “Because the Night” by joking, “The songs are just an excuse so I can talk a lot.” Be that as it may, Smith’s performance was a testament to her enduring appeal—the rare rock icon simultaneously captivating with music while relating to her crowd like an old friend sitting across the table. —Alena Kastin