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Patti Smith – Central Park SummerStage – New York, NY – September 14, 2017 (A C

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Patti Smith – Central Park SummerStage – New York, NY – September 14, 2017 – Photo by Chris Sikich © 2017

Patti Smith – Central Park SummerStage – New York, NY – September 14, 2017

Thursday, Patti Smith celebrated what would have been the 69th birthday of her late husband (Fred “Sonic” Smith) in Central Park. One of our finest poets of rock, Smith is a mystic of verse and voice. This night was as special as any of her concerts, drawing on her whole catalog and punctuated by her tight backing band and her two adult children.

Beginning with a spoken word recitation of “People Have the Power,” Smith created a somber, reflective mood. The show slowly opened into the deep beauty of her oeuvre, with “Wing” and “Frederick” then setting the thesis for the event on memory and family. Her crack band of Lenny Kaye on guitar, Tony Shanahan on bass, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums and Andy York on guitar flesh out the white space between the words with a brew of rock and punk both familiar and always in the present. And Smith’s two children brought their musical powers to the forefront, with Jackson Smith on guitar and Jesse Paris Smith on keys.

Smith frequently thinks of those who passed. Beyond her late husband, she dedicated songs to the late Grant Hart (“Peaceable Kingdom”), Sam Shepard (“Pissing in the River”) and Amy Winehouse (“Dancing Barefoot”). In thinking of motherhood and family, Smith contemplated those that are lost in a powerful cover of U2’s “Mothers of the Disappeared.”

So many moments stood out. The one-two punch of “Looking for You (I Was)” and “Summer Cannibals” was brilliant. The piecemeal cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” to begin the encore, with Shanahan and Kaye handling some verses and Smith attempting a verse as well. A supercharged encore beginning with Young turned into a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for her late husband, led by Michael Stipe, and a return to the beginning with a full band version of “People Have the Power.”

One of the people I spoke with at the show said Patti Smith is New York. Maybe in some way she is to a degree. More importantly, Patti Smith is a thriving voice of humanity and the knowledge that we, as she said last week, are “free people.”

Chris Sikich

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: September 17, 2017.

Photos by Chris Sikich © 2017

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