Patti Smith Performs Livestream From Electric Lady: Review
Patti Smith is adjusting to post-lockdown life, just like the rest of us.
"I promised everybody that I would wash my hair for this event," she said last night during a livestream performance from Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The stream was broadcast for Smith's Substack subscribers, a platform on which the singer-songwriter has been uploading poems, stories and videos since April 2021.
"I'm a little nervous," she said at the top of the show, where she also took a moment to give a shoutout to her friend Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who was watching with his mother. "I'm just expelling excitement." Smith noted that it was an odd sensation to be standing in front of a camera crew, but no real audience — she had been performing for live crowds as recently as November, but a surge in the pandemic forced her to cancel several shows, including her 75th birthday concert.
Wearing her own Electric Lady Studios T-shirt and standing in front of a large psychedelic mural, Smith appeared at home in the space. The singer and songwriter has a long history with the venue, which was opened by Jimi Hendrix in 1970: Smith recorded her debut album, 1975's critically acclaimed Horses, there.
Backed by longtime collaborators Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan, Smith opened the evening with "Grateful," a song from her 2000 album, Gung Ho. In between songs, some of which were requests from subscribers, Smith recited poems and told stories, like the time Allen Ginsberg gave her an extra dime to buy a sandwich when times were lean and her visit to Jim Morrison's grave in Paris when she was 26. When she sang "We Three," a track from 1978's Easter, she recalled how producer Jimmy Iovine had her record the vocals in the bathroom of the Record Plant to capture the natural echo.
Smith's thoughts tend to meander, but she still managed to entrance, and her voice was strong throughout. One viewer in the comment section of the stream endearingly referred to her as "Priestess Patti," and there was certainly something sacred about Smith's performance style, even when viewed on a laptop screen. She was stripped down for the evening - no drums and just her guitarist and bass player for accompaniment.
Still, Smith did her best to keep this slightly impersonal concert experience as close to the real thing as possible. She chuckled after messing up a few chords in "Southern Cross," a reminder that mistakes happen all the time, but they're easier to spot when a camera is documenting a show in live time.
"Don't you feel like we're all in some sort of black hole right now?" Smith asked, referring to a book she brought to read from, Janna Levin's Black Hole Survival Guide. Smith offered words of encouragement as she wrapped up her set. "We must stay prudent and look back at all the things that we learned," she said. "We have to reclaim ourselves. Reclaim our energy."
Patti Smith, Electric Lady Livestream, 2/2/2022
2. "My Blakean Year"
3. "Ghost Dance"
4. "Free Money"
5. "Redondo Beach"
7. "We Three"
8. "Southern Cross"
9. "Dancing Barefoot"