Summerstage Night Belongs to Fred “Sonic” Smith (Patti Smith’s Tribute)

Patti Smith celebrated her late husband's birthday in Central Park with their children and her band.

In a recent conversation with the NY Post, Patti Smith noted that her show at Summerstage became a tribute to her late husband in a roundabout way. The September 14th performance “was not something specifically planned, it was a positive piece of fate… The band was asked to play Central Park on 14 September, which is Fred’s birthday and it seemed natural that we center the concert around him.”

To honor the late Fred “Sonic” Smith’s memory, Smith and their two children, Jackson and Jesse Paris, performed with her band (including Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan and Jesse’s friend Rebecca Foon) a wonderful set that included her biggest song inspired by him, “Because the Night”, one of my favorite songs. Hearing the group perform the song sent shivers down my spine even though the late summer evening was relatively warm and humid. It’s such a lovely piece.

Smith also honored two other peers of hers, the very recently departed Grant Hart of Husker Dü (“Peaceable Kingdom”) and playwright Sam Shepard (“Pissing in the River”). Her performances are always so honest and often political as she spoke out about tearing down Trump’s wall before it is even built (and to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day). She flubbed/forgot some lines in Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”, but the audience helped her through it. For the finale, her pal Michael Stipe joined the band to sing “Happy Birthday” for Fred and to wrap up with “People Have the Power”. Photos, a video and the setlist from the show are below as well as some details about Jesse’s next show.


People Have the Power (poem)



Gone Again

Ghost Dance

Dancing Barefoot

Mothers of the Disappeared


Peaceable Kingdom

Looking For You (I Was)

Summer Cannibals

Pissing in a River

Because the Night


[encore break]

Rockin’ in the Free World

People Have the Power

Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon’s Organization Pathway to Paris “will be announcing a new initiative called 1000 cities, inviting all cities of the world to transition to 100% renewables by 2040” at Carnegie Hall on November 5th. Guests include Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Flea, Cat Power and more. Ticket info is here.


The Optimist Died Inside of Me: Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Narrow Stairs’

Silent Film’s Raymond Griffith Pulled Tricksters Out of a Top Hats

The 10 Most Memorable Non-Smash Hit Singles of 1984

30 Years of Slowdive’s ‘Souvlaki’