Forty Years into Her Career, Patti Smith is Still Bewitching: Review and Setlist
Contemporary Art Museum
May 5, 2013
It’s an emotional thing, seeing Patti Smith. I’ve seen her perform a bunch of times, and every time I’m shocked by my own intense reaction. I know that I usually get all sentimental and weepy when she starts singing, but this time I was blinking away tears as soon as I saw her face.
Why does this happen? It’s weird; I’m not usually so sappy. I think it was a combination of many factors: the small room was crowded but cozy, the audience was humming with excitement, I was flanked by great friends and, well, she was right there. As far as I’m concerned, this woman is nothing short of a goddess. I can think of no other person who has been so equally and immeasurably important to both rock music and the written word, and those are the two things that I love the most. And something about her touches me so deeply that I can barely even acknowledge it without feeling freaked out.
She’s nearly 40 years into her career, but Smith is still bewitching. She clearly knows about her singular power to enchant and she worked her little rocker-poet-goddess-shaman thing all night. She entered the room to great applause and flashed her famously sweet, yet mischievous smile. Her performance was a combination concert and poetry reading and Smith slides easily between the two formats. It is here that you can witness the interconnectedness of her work: she can read a poem, tell a story about it and then sing a song she’s written about the subject.
Smith was joined onstage by her long time bandmates and trusted collaborators, Tony Shanahan and Lenny Kaye. Kaye played guitar and Shanahan accompanied her on guitar, bass and piano. Both men stood quietly and respectfully as she read from a few of her books and also sang backup during songs as needed. The amount of talent on that stage was overwhelming when all three played and sang together — I consider myself lucky that I had a hand to hold as Shanahan pounded out the first dramatic notes of “Pissing in a River.”
It wasn’t all heavy stuff, though. Smith kept the mood light between songs with her funny stories and easygoing nature. At one point she stepped back from the microphone, made a funny face and then returned to ask, “You ever have one of those burps that won’t come out?”
Smith’s performance also included numerous compliments to St. Louis. She referenced our own William Burroughs multiple times, commented our buildings (“This city has beautiful architecture. It’s the kind of architecture that reoccurs in your dreams”) and she improvised a little STL love at the beginning of “My Blakean Year.” (“The tour bus pulled into St. Louie / Where I was thinkin’ of William / And the Courtesy Diner…”)
Smith ended the night with “People Have the Power” and dedicated the song to her “late and great husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith” of the MC5. She said that they ended up working on the song together after he walked up her one day at home and said, “Patricia, people have the power. Write it.”
At some point during the show, my friend leaned into my ear and whispered this: “You know what’s great about her? She’s humble. And she doesn’t have to be.” Yes. Exactly. She doesn’t have to be humble at all. But it sure is nice. Smith stayed after the show to autograph books and records.
- “My Blakean Year”
- “Peaceable Kingdom”
- “Pissing in a River”
- “It’s a Dream” (Neil Young cover)
- “Because the Night”
- “Ghost Dance”
- “People Have the Power”
7:00 p.m. May 5
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
3750 Washington Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
It’s fitting that Patti Smith’s first performance in St. Louis since 2004 is at the Contemporary Art Museum. Though she is best known as the reigning “Godmother of Punk,” Smith’s genre-defying career has no boundaries when it comes to art and expression. Smith’s groundbreaking debut album, Horses, came out in 1975 and it is still hailed as one of the greatest albums in music history. Ten albums and nearly 40 years later and her career is still going strong. But Smith is not only a rock heroine, she’s also a poet and an artist who explores and produces in many different kinds of media, including painting and photography.
— By Jaime Lees
link: Riverfront Times
Selecting Riverfront Times’ Best of St. Louis 2012 wasn’t easy. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned — until now. In this RFT Music series, we’re beeboping and scattin’ our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. This week: The best dive bars in St. Louis.
The Silverleaf Lounge
(3442 Hereford Street; 314-481-4080)
The bartenders here claim that the Silverleaf is the smallest bar in the city of St. Louis, and that’s a believable claim. The entire room holds just a few small tables and a row of stools along the bar, and what also must be the smallest bathrooms in the city of St. Louis. But the patrons are chatty and welcoming to non-regulars, and the tiny jukebox is stuffed with new country and old blues. Don’t expect many frills here, but the tiny draft-beer selection and limited cocktail options are more than made up for with the friendly spirit of the bar and the Etta James on the jukebox.
Red’s Eighth Inning
(6412 Michigan Avenue; 314-353-1084)
This rowdy little establishment is situated right in the middle of a neighborhood, near the corner of Michigan and Holly Hills avenues. The huge jukebox is constantly blaring, and the people there are always looking to see or be seen. It’s a great people-watching bar, not least of all because the modern rock music is usually playing so loud that neighboring tables can’t hear you shit-talking with your friends. The bartenders don’t take any crap and won’t hesitate to kick you out if they don’t like you, or hug you and offer you a free drink if you manage to get on their good side. Old school.
Highlights Bar and Grill
(7301 South Broadway; 314-351-2422)
There’s a little smattering of dive bars on South Broadway (just down the river from Bellerive Park) that welcome newcomers and make exploring new establishments easy with their fabulous prices. The corner space occupied by Highlights was formerly called Kathleen’s Steak House. The drinks are cheap here, but know what you want because there isn’t a drinks menu to be found. It’s the kind of bar where people are friendly, but they won’t really bother you. And though the bar stools may all be full, it’s still easy to get the attention of the bartender. This place does offer something extra that is lacking in many dive bars: food. The pizza selection is limited, but hey — dive-bar pizza!
(4573 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-6423)
The Central West End is known as a bourgeois neighborhood with impressive houses, world-class restaurants, very expensive cocktails and impossible parking. Though located on the poppin’ south edge of the CWE, Rosie’s Place is kind of the opposite of all of that. The parking still blows goats, but the bar is more in step with the working-class parts of the city. The drinks are affordable and the rules are loose; patrons can light up a cigarette or stumble in with man’s best friend: Yep, you can even bring your dog inside. Rover loves Rosie’s, too.
(3805 Meramec Street; 314-457-9112)
Many people know about the Time Out bar on Gravois Avenue near the corner at Chippewa Street, but this Time Out is its laid-back sister establishment. While the Gravois location offers multiple rooms, club lights and a near Landing-like experience after midnight, the Meramec location is just a classic, lazy dive bar. It’s quiet and low-lit, with many people drinking on their own or just enjoying a beer after work. There’s a pool table that seems constantly in use, and the clacking of the pool balls are frequently the only noise in the room. Patrons here tend to keep to themselves and it’s a great place to grab a cheap drink and dig into a good book.
(5838 Southwest Avenue; 314-645-5777)
Located just around the corner from a sort-of classy dive, the Hideaway, Jimmy Mack’s is anything but classy. It’s rough in every aspect, from the bartenders to the patrons to the décor. But it’s also the place to go if you want to be amused by strangers and if you know how to keep your mouth shut. Daytime drunks will stumble into your table and it gets a little raucous at night, but it’s all in good fun. The bar offers a greater liquor variety than the average dive, but don’t ask for a fancy cocktail or you’ll be outed as an interloper.
(5918 Hampton Avenue; 314-481-4122)
The square footage is slightly more impressive, but Area IV is considered the sister bar of the South side’s Silverleaf bar. And though the front door opens to the busy stretch of Hampton Avenue just south of Chippewa Street, this Princeton Heights bar feels like a hidden neighborhood watering hole. It’s decorated to honor firefighters, with pictures of firemen and firewomen who are friends of the bar featured prominently on the walls. There are a few televisions and a computerized jukebox, but that’s about it. Not that it matters, really. People don’t come here for the amenities. They come for the friendly vibe, the laid-back atmosphere and the cheaper-than-cheap beer.
(2600 South Eleventh Street)
This Soulard bar isn’t quite like the others. Instead of drawing the young and drunk the average Cat’s Meow patron is old and drunk, instead. Though the bar is still welcoming to co-eds looking to get naughty (with Mardi Gras beads for sale behind the bar), people here are more likely to be sitting around and talking about sports and snacking on pretzels than flashing their goodies. Unlike some neighboring bars, the prices are cheap, and the bar is bright and memorable, offering affordable pitchers and shot specials.
Cards Soulard – Formerly Cuz
(1530 South Seventh Street; 314-241-2400)
The first thing patrons notice about Cards Soulard is the building. It is a bar that is housed in what was clearly a converted fast-food establishment. If the drive-through lane around the building didn’t give that away, the retired (but intact) soda-fountain station inside makes it obvious. Though it’s larger than most places that are considered dive bars, Cards offers the same smoky air and dive bar atmosphere. On the weekends, the bartenders are young ladies who don’t wear much, but it doesn’t matter. They are great hosts and the prices are right and if you ask them nicely enough, they might let you do a body shot. It’s a dive bar with extra sauce.
(2815 Watson Road; 314-645-4033)
Sophie’s is a weird little dive directly on Watson Road in Clifton Heights. The two-room set up hosts the bar in one room, with a game room connected. In the game room there’s a pool table and some of the absolutely worst karaoke in town (in a good way). If karaoke isn’t your jam, you can retreat to the dark, frequently crowded bar room, where patrons are loud and seemingly always looking to make friends. It’s the kind of bar where people go to talk to strangers, so if you want to be left alone, this is not the place. But if you want to have some interesting conversations and drink a few free shots, Sophie’s might be your new favorite place.
– by Jaime Lees
link: Riverfront Times
7:00 p.m. April 23
Peabody Opera House
14th St. and Market St.
St. Louis, MO 63103
He’s the celebrated poet-laureate of rock and roll, but Bob Dylan’s credits extend beyond his trademark cadence and twisted wordsmith skills. With a career spanning five decades in the public eye, Dylan is king to not just his contemporaries, but nearly every singer-songwriter since. From scruffy underdog to lauded international pop icon, Dylan is more than just a simple protest musician who famously dared to “go electric” at a folk music festival; he’s the gold standard.
— By Jaime Lees
link: Riverfront Times
St. Louis electronic music fans are hungry for a hometown Daft Punk live show. The duo would do well here; the French house pioneers’ special brand of synthpop-based party tunes are as universally appealing as our beautiful Arch. But we Mid-westerners are a resourceful people: If we can’t have the real thing, we’ll have a tribute night, with “anthems, remixes and club bangers” from local favorite Coreyography and more.
— By Jaime Lees
link: Riverfront Times
8 p.m. Tuesday, April 9. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard. $30 to $35. 314-726-6161.
Gothic music gets a bad reputation. Most people think that goth bands are hateful, harsh and ugly, but bands such as IO Echo show the other side of goth: the romantic side. IO Echo is more like flowers and velvet than black eyeliner and combat boots. Yeah, it’s dark, but it’s dreamy, too. The band’s shoegaze-y atmosphere is a great contrast to singer Ioanna Gika’s vocals. Her clear, classically pretty voice cuts like a light beam through the distortion fog, reminding you that this might be gothic, but it’s still modern-gothic, via sunny Los Angeles.
link: Riverfront Times
Fuck me, I am going to overdose on this new Justin Timberlake album.
I know that I’m supposed to be ashamed of certain selections in my album collection. I know this from all of the times that people have looked through my CDs or records or iTunes and been all, “Hey, what’s this doing here?” before handing me, say, a Carpenters album or some weird movie soundtrack and calling it my “guilty pleasure.”
Everybody seems to be hung up on some kind of notion that the music you like says something about you, that it makes you a certain kind of person. How boring and closed-minded and, well, teenagerish.
Do you know what my music says about me? Nothing. At the most, it says that I like good tunes, because I think the stuff that I own is all good tunes. But I feel zero guilt over any of the music that I enjoy and you shouldn’t, either.
As a music writer, people usually assume that the “bad” in my music collection got there because somebody sent it to me for free or because I had to write about it or something. Nope. Most of that “bad” stuff is there because I bought it myself with cash money dollahz.
I think that, for the most part, the pop music you like isn’t a representation of your personality. It can’t be. As a matter of definition, pop music is popular and loved by millions. That’s one of the great things about pop music: It subtly provides opportunities to cross boundaries and engage with others who are unlike you because you have something in common. You can meet someone on the other side of the planet who speaks an entirely different language, but you can still manage to bond with them over the magic of Michael Jackson.
I have one exception to this universal love-fest. I will openly admit to a prejudice against diehard U2 fans. I just don’t understand it. And while I hate everything about the bloated, pompous beast that is U2, I still like a few U2 songs. I mean, damn, you can’t argue with “One.” That song is perfect.
So you don’t get to decide what you like, you just like it. That’s it. (Trust me, if I could find a way hate “One,” I’d be way stoked.) Instead of being weird or bashful about it, celebrate your personal diversity. Don’t like certain songs or bands in an “ironic” way. Who has time for that? And don’t justify or feel like you have to defend or explain your potentially embarrassing favorites. Just go on liking them and tell all haters to step off.
For example, I don’t know how may times I’ve had to explain to somebody that, no, I actually really like Taylor Swift. Sure, sometimes I dig Swift in a very detached way, like when I’m analyzing her fame or her success. But usually when I’m listening to T-Swiz, there’s not much cerebral action happening: I’m just another dumb broad rocking out in her car. I’ll be all singing along and thinking about boys and making exaggerated arm gestures while driving down Highway 44 and loving it.
I’ve heard time and time again that my taste in music is very confusing. Like, I really love Tool, but I also love Mary Chapin Carpenter. (I can roll from “Hooker with a Penis” to “Passionate Kisses” without blinking.) And I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Veruca Salt, but Nina Gordon’s solo album is just as likely to get played as Minor Threat. And at my house, music listening decisions come down to things like Neil Young vs. Britney Spears all of the time.
Am I really supposed to be ashamed of this? All of this stuff is good, yo.
There is only one album in my entire collection that makes me cringe every time I see it. It’s Tori Amos’ “Crucify” single. I hate the sight of it, but not because I’m embarrassed that I own it: It’s because I really can’t stand that woman’s music, her earnestness or my memory of that nasty pig sucking her breast. But I’m a Nirvana completest, and that particular CD contains her hilariously snobby, overly pronounced cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Whenever I’ve played it, it’s become an instant favorite among any friends with a sense of humor.
So, damn, don’t take your music taste so seriously. And don’t analyze or complicate your instincts. If it has a good beat, dance to it. Just like what you like, and don’t worry about bullshit labels like “guilty pleasures.”
And, for the love of God, give that new Justin Timberlake album a spin. It’s totally good, I swear. Like, actually.
Now go bump this and don’t feel guilty at all when it owns you:
link: Riverfront Times