It is rare to attend a concert that is truly life-changing. Last night I had the honor and privilege to attend "An Evening with Patti Smith," at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, and can honestly say that I left the show with the desire to become a better human being.
The show was being held in conjunction with her accompanying exhibition Patti Smith: 9.11 Babelogue at the Leubsdorf Art Gallery. Smith was joined on stage with 40-year accompanying guitarist Lenny Kaye, as well as her daughter Jesse Smith on piano.
Over the course of the evening Smith played various songs that spanned her career as a singer/songwriter, poet, and activist, including "Because the Night," Neil Young's "It's a Dream," and the rage-filled "Pissing in a River," which earned her a standing ovation.
Smith also shared some of her very own journal entries, including one she wrote on September 11th, 2001. The entry was written in poetic form, and read with command where each word pierced the air with genuine pathos.
Artists often claim that their motivation in their art is to make some change in society, but how many really do this effectively? What was so amazing about Smith's performance is her utter sincerity. Not many artists could get up on stage and sing "Ghost Dance," a song about Native American mythology, without audience eye-rolls and ultimate cheese factor.
Despite the generation gap in the room, and the refusal of some college students to get up and dance, Smith's confidence was undeniable. For instance, she could easily laugh off any mistake she made or any sound glitch that occurred (and there were a few throughout the night). She didn't take herself too seriously, but what she did take seriously was our shared humanity, and her strong desire for world peace.
Anytime an artist makes you question your own life, and forces you to think about the world at large without any pretense, it is clear that they have succeeded in some way. More important than her grandiose statements about occupying Wall-Street or treasuring the under-appreciated, was her state of life that clearly had an affect on each person.
The feeling of hope and empowerment that permeated the room upon exiting the show made it clear that Smith is still the "Godmother of Punk."
Smith's exhibition is running through December 3rd. Make sure you go check it out!
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