By: Shelby Monita (@shelbymonita) –
Friday night, one of Toronto’s most beautiful and infamous venues, Massey Hall, lent its stage to Patti Smith and her band for the first time since 1976. Though to everyone’s shock, her Massey Hall return only filled half of the seats, something that could easily be attributed to this being the opening weekend to the celebrity loving Toronto International Film Festival.
Patti and her band which included her long time guitarist Lenny Kaye, came on stage with contagious enthusiasm, as she kicked her feet together like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as she danced around for the intro of the first song of her two-hour set, “Dancing Barefoot”. Others who have been to a Patti Smith show could agree that it is a wildly supreme experience. Few artists are able to achieve the passion and intimacy that is felt from Patti. From her aggressive spiting on stage, whenever and wherever she pleased, to her intensity when reciting poetry, to her roaring voice during the conclusion of “Pissing in the River”, she never fails to prove her rightful title as Godmother of Punk.
Patti, a known social commentator, wasn’t shy to use her soapbox to preach revolution. She made sure during several spoken word sections throughout her set to use updated references to make her point clear, mostly speaking of the problems in Syria and the trials of Edward Snowden. The night also had a nice spontaneous surprise when Patti went off the written set list and did a cover of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”, giving the reason to sing this being it took her over a month to learn how to sing it. A third of the way through the night, Patti left the stage and let Lenny Kaye take the lead. Back in the ‘70s Lenny, a self-proclaimed musical historian made a compilation album called Nuggets, when included some of psych-rock’s greatest songs. He used some of the material from this compilation for a ten minute long melody. The audience loved it; people were dancing in the aisle, letting loose and having a great time. It seemed like this was Patti’s chance for a bit of a rest, but part way through the rock goddess couldn’t help herself as she wondered into the shadows of the stage to have a little dance. Patti didn’t let the audience down and made her only top ten hit, “Because the Night” part of the set, dedicating it to the man who inspired the words, her late husband Fred Sonic Smith. She then fooled the audience when the intro to “Gloria” was played, only for her to put a stop to it, which led into “Horses” as Patti sung it almost to the end when the song was gradually switched into “Gloria” and everyone went nuts.
As people screamed out “G-L-O-R-I-A”, there were only huge smiling grins on everybody’s faces, more than satisfied and a knowing look that this night is unlike all the others. Patti’s passion, Patti’s words should be experienced by everyone, at least once, more than once if lucky.
Her encore was nothing short of pure punk rock. Starting off with “Bagna”, Patti’s roaring voice barked into the microphone, and she no longer looked like a person, but a symbol to revolt. The last song of the night was perfection, “Rock n’ Roll Nigger”, had Patti reminding the audience that, “we are the future, it’s our decision, we are the future and the future is now.” Making the point stronger by tossing a bucket of rose peddles into the audience, a symbol of love, passion and blood. By the end of the song she stated “with this bow I send my love”, with that she ripped one of the strings out of her guitar, reminded the crowd of her love for everyone, and the show was over.
It’s hard to truly describe a Patti Smith show to someone who hasn’t been. She breaks everyone down, has the crowd rethink their entire life, their decisions and directions. Then with love and passion builds everyone back up to remind them that they are okay and to fight for your rights and she does all of this in two hours. If you ever have the chance, and if you’re ever lucky enough, go see a Patti Smith performance and never forget it.
1. Dancing Barefoot
2. Redondo Beach
5. Break It Up
7. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) (John Lennon cover)
8. Distant Fingers
9. My Blakean Year
10. Southern X
13. We Three
14. Because The Night (Bruce Springsteen cover)
15. Pissing in a River
18. Rock n Roll Niggers