So there we were, up in the Circle (H58 & 59) at the Dome Concert Hall, gazing down onto the multitudinous dance floor while the house lights were still on. The lights began to dim…
After receiving a gladiator’s welcome - little girls wanting to touch her spindly legs, boots, and man’s jacket - Patti Smith bounces onto the stage, does a coquettish little dance, and begins reciting the apocalyptic “Piss Factory” (her first b-side from way back when). It was an impassioned way to kick off the proceedings, leading into a spiffy new arrangement of “Redondo Beach” (which Andy Wilkin used to affectionately refer to as “Redundant Beach” back in ‘76) from Horses.
Smith has a beatnik’s charisma and a winning way with the raucous crowd - they love her to bits. Some girl shouts out something in Japanese and Patti drawls back: “send her to the correction room. The correction room is for bad girls. I’m already there.”
She sets up an acoustic guitar figure and begins improvising: she wants “a space opposite the palace” (“palace” deliberately mispronounced to rhyme with “space”) where she can “watch the horses running around the Dome…”
I am unfamiliar with much of Smith’s later material, but still thought she mixed light and dark eras of her career with definite grace. For every avant-garde clarinet solo (I thought of Beefheart), there was a “Free Money” or a singalong to “Like a Rolling Stone” (introduced as “an old American folk song”) to balance things out.
Coaxing squalls of angry feedback from her trusty axe and leaping around the stage like a rag doll, it’s difficult to accept the fact the woman is approaching 60. Her between-song patter is droll and measured; then again she’s had almost thirty years to hone her craft. She is, if nothing else, a natural born survivor.
I left the concert hall after “Because the Night,” around 10pm. There was nothing amiss with Patti or her band; we were being hassled by security for taking movies and pictures (even though you could glimpse a sea of digital cameras and mobile phones in the darkness) and, plus, we felt we’d had our fix. It had been a great night.
I went for a piss on the way out and two middle-aged men were at the urinal complaining about Patti having spit on the carpet. Standing between them I muttered “that’s ok, my nan does that” and they both stopped urinating and asked “Your granny spits on the carpet?” - I said “yeah.”
On the way out one of them blew off and I turned around and said “beans on toast?” (Smith had been considering the effects of beans on her constitution earlier in the show). Meanwhile, unknown to me, my friend had fallen over outside the Ladies (!) but she’s okay now. Good old Brighton: from Wilde in the park to Patti Smith at the Dome - we salute you…