A Patti Smith Birthday Celebration

December 31st, 2013

Patti Smith – Webster Hall – December 30, 2013

Patti Smith celebrated her 67th birthday last night by performing for a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall, opening with a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” in tribute to the late Lou Reed—a deliberate and respectful rendition. Although the loss of Reed, one of Smith’s contemporaries, is no doubt still fresh, the song didn’t set a mournful tone. Instead, Smith was in good spirits, spouting playful banter as she and her band navigated through an eclectic set list, with songs from 2012’s Banga (“Fuji San,” “Mosaic”) taking their place beside early numbers like “Dancing Barefoot,” off the Patti Smith Group’s 1979 album, Wave, and “Free Money,” from Smith’s debut album, 1975’s Horses.

Despite the joke “Yes it’s my birthday, I am now 422 years old,” Smith proved she’s still quite in touch with pop culture, performing a soulful rendition of Rihanna’s hit single “Stay” as well as “Capital Letter,” a tune Smith wrote for the newest Hunger Games soundtrack. Not too many 422 year olds can claim that level of connectedness with the millennials in the crowd. Later in the sett, Smith was presented with a gift and a birthday cake by her daughter Jesse and friends (including Michael Stipe), as the crowd sang “Happy Birthday.” A surprise cascade of balloons was released from the ceiling, and Smith seemed just as delighted by her gift: seven pairs of socks.

Before the show’s end, Smith treated us to favorites like “Because the Night” and “Pissing in a River,” before bookending the set with another Reed song, “Perfect Day.” Leaving us with a New Year’s tiding, the auteur announced that 2014 is in fact the year of the horse—promising that it will be “a very strong year.” As evidenced once again by her powerful performance, Smith’s words carry conviction. We should all be inclined to believe her. —Alena Kastin