December 31, 2023

Patti Smith played Brooklyn Steel (Night 2)

The godmother of punk celebrated her 77th birthday with a sold-out performance at Brooklyn Steel.

Earlier this year, I went to see The National headline Madison Square Garden. It was a big, landmark event for the band (despite their only OK new albums from this year), but to me, it was made even bigger when it was announced that Patti Smith would open the show. I'd seen Patti a few times already, but this still felt almost like a double bill show vs an opening and headlining concert. I got to the arena in time to watch all of Patti's amazing set which featured a tribute to Tom Verlaine of Television, a reading of Ginsberg's Howl, and a Neil Young cover. That was in addition to a lot of her other great hits. In my opinion, she stole the show and as I ambled around the concessions and bathroom before the National took the stage, I overheard (and engaged in) some conversations from people who were also blown away, albeit these folks were surprised by the fact. Patti has been a legend for decades, but not everyone is aware of her raw power and energy onstage nor the fact that as she pushed 80, she's still out there putting on shows of a higher caliber than those who could be her children. Being able to celebrate Patti's 77th birthday by catching her right in my own neighborhood was another moment I knew seemed too good to pass up. I've been to a lot of shows this year, but this felt like one of the best possible ways to close out 2023. She opened the night with a cover of The Byrds "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" and immediately turned the energy in the room on its head and kept the crowd buzzing all night long. Playing for nearly two hours, she rarely stopped moving around the stage and kept her impeccable voice in strong form throughout. The poet that she is, she took time between songs to serenade us with her words, her natural dialogue like poems themselves as she spoke about unity, fighting for what's right, and demanding the change we wish to see in the world. Once again she did a touching tribute to Tom Verlaine with her elegant cover of Television's "Guiding Light," a soaring anthem that felt charged and full of love, her voice climbing to the heaven's to reach her dearly departed friend. She'd recite similar words when speaking of the loss of Robert Maplethorpe and her own husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith. Taking charge through Dylan's scorching "Master of War" she chanted for peace and demanded that our government be held accountable no matter who is in the White House and that the bombing of innocent civilians must come to an end. It's a path towards peace she's been marching on for decades and one she is still in every step of the way. After singing a proper "Happy Birthday," she dedicated the next song to herself and all the girls as she lead us through a moving and jovial "Dancing Barefoot" which once again had the crowd moving right along with her. All night long she was a force on stage, ripping off her jacket and jeering with the crowd, embodying her status of punk legend with every might of her being. "Beneath the Southern Cross" featured an interwoven cover of "Fairytale of New York" as a tribute to the late Pogues' singer before revving things up for the finale of the main set. A killer "Pissing in the River" before an absolutely rocking "Land" that segued into "Gloria" with killer power and force. It would've been enough to end things there, but she came back to deliver a stupendous "Because the Night" that rocked harder than when Springsteen plays the song, again proving she's one of the all-time greats. Things finally did come to an end with a thrilling and life-affirming "People Have the Power," a song that was enough to reduce me to tears as hope filled the room and the pristine power and momentum that only Patti can bring carried us off into the night. Happy Birthday, Patti. May you deliver us to the truth forever!

01 "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" [The Byrds cover]
02 "Free Money"
03 "Ghost Dance"
04 "Guiding Light" [Television cover]
05 "Masters of War" [Bob Dylan cover]
06 "Nine"
07 "Dancing Barefoot"
08 "77 Sunset Strip Intro Theme Song" [The Warren Barker Orchestra cover]
09 "Two Sevens Clash"[Culture cover] 
10 "Ain't It Strange"
11 "Work" [Charlotte Day Wilson cover]
12 "Beneath the Southern Cross" (with “Fairytale of New York”)
13 "Vissi d'arte ("I Lived for Art") [Giacomo Puccini cover]
14 "Pissing in a River"
15 "Land" / "Gloria" [Them cover]
16 "Because the Night"
17 "People Have the Power"

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