In my time, I’ve only properly felt at home in one place. Brussels. On Saturday night I finally saw Patti Smith play with a full band, and it felt like home. The rest is beyond a feeling I can put into words but I’ll try. Not for the interest of others but for my own personal outlet.
Prior to Patti and the band taking to the stage, my stomach was doing somersaults over the PA playing Punk classics from the likes of The Damned and Ramones. The greats were being blasted out in anticipation of the Godmother of it all. As it got closer to the stage time, I started feeling like a child at Christmas. Nothing can top this feeling, nothing ever ever will. I’ve been to many gigs and a few have left an imprint on my mind and in my heart but I knew that this was going to take over from all I had known before. I was entering another world. A world that feels like home.
They walk onto the stage to nothing short of a reception fit for music royalty. Clenching a copy of Horses in her hands, holding it like a trophy. Maybe that’s what it is after all. A trophy to symbolise greatness and how it should be done. Everything from now on will not compare to this. No winning lottery ticket, nothing materialistic or otherwise will top this.
I’ve seen Patti twice in an intimate setting. The first was around a year ago when she played a tiny show in Howarth, after the show I met her and burst into tears. The second time was last Wednesday when she did a talk for The Guardian- an hour and a half of hearing her wisdom tales. Heaven. I’d been waiting and waiting to see her play with a full band. Any time she announced dates there was always something in the way. Nothing was stopping me from seeing her play Horses in full.
She reads the poem on the back of the record, removes her glasses and we all enter the world of Horses together as she rips into Gloria. That one line from a song owns many hearts, and is still regarded as one of the greatest lines of all time. With a gorgeous smirk she sings, “Jesus died for some body’s sins…but not mine!” If any part of a song is going to ring through the venue and out of the mouths of her fans, it was most definitely this one.
It wasn’t just about hearing the life-changing songs on Saturday night, it was her presence on stage that is so rare and so beautiful. Her sense of humour is priceless and just an absolute delight to witness. From her mishap with the zip on her jeans to her silver hair getting everywhere. She interacts with the crowd in a way most try far too hard to do. She’s a treasure, and I wonder after all these years- does she know how wonderful she is?
After playing Horses in full, we are treated to some delights. Hearts broke as she sang her tribute to Amy Winehouse, This Is The Girl. Playing in a venue that was right near where she lived, it just felt right for us all to listen to this beautiful tribute. If only she was still around. She should still be here, we all know that.
The band minus Patti tore into The Roundhouse with their tribute to the greatest band ever from New York (best band of all time) the Velvet Underground. Lenny, Jay, Tony and Jack blasted through Rock & Roll, I’m Waiting For The Man and White Light/White Heat as if the songs were their own and we were at Max’s. I’m no musician but I’ve always regarded Lenny Kaye as being the best guitarist of all time. His performance at The Roundhouse fully justified my thoughts on him, and I really hope the kids in the crowd left wanting to use the guitar as their weapon to inspire others. We need it, desperately.
There is something really empowering about seeing a woman who is close to my mum’s age spitting on the stage and saying “Come on motherfucker!” during Horses. From seeing her do her talks to seeing her on stage, it is like watching a different person but it is still our Patti Smith. The voice of so many, the truth and the reason. She was taught to question everything and in that, she’s made her fans do the same. There is nothing more unsettling than accepting what others tell you. Don’t buy into corporate bullshit and don’t let the government dictate your needs to you. Punk is still alive, and it is a state of mind.
I’m going back and forth between the songs as my mind keeps taking me back to Saturday night. During the breathtaking Elegie, Patti recited the name of the musicians and poets we have lost. Lou Reed, Robert Mapplethorpe and Fred Sonic Smith’s names were all greeted with such a powerful rapture it was like they were in the room. We don’t ever really fully lose someone, we just carry them around with us in different ways.
People Have The Power for me was the highlight because that song holds so much worth and importance. To hear everyone yell the song back at her and for Patti to tell us “Use your voice” was such a dominating factor of the night. The change comes from us- not anyone else. We all play a part in making things better, it isn’t up to just one person.
They end the set with a cover of The Who’s My Generation. It felt like watching a bunch of kids practise in their garage, it was insanely brilliant especially when Patti took off her boots and socks, grabbed her guitar and throttled it until strings snapped. She told us it was her generation’s greatest weapon, and it truly was. It still could be in others, I really hope it is.
The power in this show was something I know I’ll never experience again in any other band or singer I’ll see live. I’ll never get this feeling again. I left feeling as if I need to do something, I still have that feeling. There’s something we all need to do, and trying to figure it out is the toughest part. Everything after is just a ride. Patti and the band are real inspirational figures, and this show 40 years on after they first played here is a testament to everything they have ever done.
The show felt like a huge lion’s roar. A ripple sent through the crowd erupting into a frenzy of people who were ready. Ready for what? Anything. Everything. It doesn’t matter. The crowd was full of people who had been there the first time around and now bringing their kids, people who wanted to feel something, to be part of something truly life changing. I hope it was some lost 15 year old’s first ever show and they left with a fire in their belly and the desire to make their own movement.
Perfection doesn’t exist, something we all tell ourselves but hand on heart, this was the most perfect gig I’ve ever been to. As I head into my 29th year, I hope the dissatisfaction fades and turns into something less worthless. Patti taught me all I needed to know to get through my painful teens and on Saturday night, she spurred me into adulthood with a strong sense of self.
Come on motherfucker. Come on!