Friday, June 29, 2012

Review,Patti Smith,The Forum, Bath 28/6/2012

It was in the hot summer of 1976 that i first heard the music of Patti Smith.I had moved back to Peterborough briefly and got a job in a fish factory called Christian Salvesens.It was horrible.Dave and Fred had a flat in Broadway and i used to go round there quite a lot.On Saturdays we used to go to Andy's Records in Bridge Street or another record shop in the Hereward Arcade that i can't remember the name of now.One day Fred bought a real classic.It was Horses by Patti Smith and i immediately thought it was one of the best albums i had ever heard.I remember at the time Fred saying that along with Keith Richards and one or two others Patti Smith was one of the few people who understood what Rock And Roll was all about.I must say i agreed with him.I liked it so much that i got my own copy.
The opening track is Patti's version of Van Morrison's Gloria with the famous line added by Patti, 'Jesus died for somebodies sins but not mine'.I think that some of my friends who know me as a Van Morrison fan might think it strange that i like the high priestess of punk Patti Smith but i can see connections between the two apart from both being known for Gloria.If Patti is the high priestess of punk then you could argue that Van is the grandfather of punk.Early Van songs like Gloria and Mystic Eyes were punk or garage classics 12 years ahead of their time.There is a lot more to them than that though. Firstly they were both influenced by the great French poet Arthur Rimbaud.In her song Piss Factory which was on Patti's first single she relates how while working on the production line in a factory she found her salvation when she read Rimbaud's 'Illuminations' a book which she had shoplifted.It was that very same book that Van was reading at the time of writing 'Tore Down A La Rimbaud ' one of his greatest songs.Also Van & Patti were both influenced by William Blake.Also they both experienced visions during their childhoods which i have written about previously and i can't be bothered going into now.
The next three years or so produced Radio Ethiopia,Easter and Wave which had some great songs such as Pissing In A River,Because The Night, and Frederick but not reaching the heights of Horses. I saw Patti at the Reading Festival in 1979.I can't remember a lot about it though. Reading 79 was awful and i never went to that festival again.I seem to remember Patti talking too much in between the songs which made it quite a disjointed performance.A few weeks later Dave and i went grape-picking in France and arrived in the town of Orange to find that we had just missed Patti playing in the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre there which was disappointing.Gradually Patti disappeared off my radar.I don't think she made another album for ten years.
In recent years though Patti has begun to reappear from her self imposed exile.Her book Just Kids has had lots of praise and she has been honoured in France where they love her and now she has a brand new album 'Banga' which some critics have described as her best since Horses and last week i learned that she was playing in Bath only 12 miles from here.I knew i had to go so i phoned Fred because it was only right that Fred should go for it was he who first introduced me to the Godmother Of Punk all those years ago.Then i found out much to my chagrin that the concert was a sell out.That only made me more determined to go and i scored two tickets on ebay.
The big day arrived.I got up at 5.00 and worked really hard in the piss factory so i could escape by 2.00.When i got home i had to wait for two men to come and install our new cooker so i didn't get underway until 6.50.I got to the station and found the train was running half an hour late.This really stressed me out.Anyway,i finally got on the train and Fred got on at Trowbridge and i started to relax.It was a beautiful summers evening as the little train chugged along the Avon valley to the beautiful city of Bath.The Forum doesn't look much from the outside but it is an amazing building when you get inside.It was opened in 1934 by the Marquis Of Bath as one of the last great Art-Deco cinemas in Britain which has been lovingly restored to its former glory.It is quite magnificent.I wish Van would play here,it would be great to see him in his old stamping ground of Bath.
As we raced in there was a huge cheer as Patti got on stage.We had made it with seconds to spare.The first song was Dancing Barefoot .You will have to excuse any mistakes because i have had a 30 year hiatus from Patti and i don't know all the song titles.The second song was Redondo Beach.Patti was in great voice and she looked great dressed in jeans and t shirt,jacket and a wooly hat which she threw away after a few songs.I think she is 66 now but her energy is incredible.Patti spits in the face of old age.She is one of the great movers in music and has the energy of a teenager.
She has a great 4 piece band with Lenny Kaye on guitar who was on the Horses album decades ago.The third song which is from Banga featured Tony Shanahan on keyboards.He has co-written a lot of her recent songs i believe.After that Patti told a funny story about how they had been in the Lion & Lamb pub earlier and she had been given the wrong food.She had ordered steak and ale pie but was given lasagne and she ate it.The waitress got really angry and Patti said,"But you gave it to me" and now she was worried that she had got the waitress in trouble.I know that pub,it is just down the road opposite the Oxfam bookshop.I think its great when somebody like her who could eat in the finest restaurant in Bath chose to go in a pub like the Lion & Lamb.Patti also said that wandering around Bath she had met so many fans that tonight she felt that it wasn't so much a concert,more like hanging out with friends.She is a really nice person with a great wicked sense of humour.
The next song i recognised, it was Free Money from Horses,a great song.The next song i think is called Fuji San from Banga and is about the Japanese earthquake/tsunami and is really good.This was followed by her tribute to Ami Winehouse called This Is The Girl.It is really moving and i urge you to listen to it.Another great song followed which i think is called Ghost Dance with its refrain 'We shall live again'.Then Patti said she had been watching 'Location,Location'.on the telly and the people wanted en-suite bedrooms."What do they call it en-suite ?,"said Patti,"Its a fucking toilet".Anyway,the next song was about her hero Arthur Rimbaud and how he had applied for a job building the Panama Canal.I think it is called Beneath The Southern Cross.Patti played guitar on this and it was magnificent.It ended with frenzied guitar and drumming which brought a standing ovation from large sections of the audience.
Then Lenny Kaye sang a song while Patti left the stage for 5 minutes.When she returned she had changed her t shirt.It was a really humid night.Then she sang a song called We Three which was about CBGB's club in New York and her friend Tom Verlaine of the band Television.I remember decades ago hearing Televisions Marquee Moon album round at Fred's flat.The next song was greeted with a huge cheer,it was her biggest hit Because The Night.Strangely though it was my least favourite song of the night.Maybe she has sung it too often and is a bit fed up with it.Pissing In A River followed and Lenny Kaye excelled himself on this one.All this talk about piss made me want to go to the toilet and i dashed down there.Even the toilets are nice in this venue with Art-Deco doors etc.I saw the bar was empty so i said to the girl,"A glass of white wine please",and downed it in one and dashed back to me seat.Patti was talking about the pub again and its name the Lion & Lamb and how the lion shall lie down with the lamb."But the lamb shall not get much sleep",i muttered to Fred.Her next song Peaceable Kingdom mentions lions and lambs.It was really good as was the next which i think is called People Have The Power.
Her greatest song Gloria followed and it was superb.Its a Van Morrison classic but i don't think i have seen Van ever perform it with this energy.Maybe in his early days.The crowd loved it at the end Patti said "That lasagne was awesome!" and left the stage to tumultuous applause.We knew it wasn't the end though and when Patti returned she announced that Italy had beaten Germany in the football."It must be the lasagne",she said.For an encore she sang the title song Banga and there might have been a bit of Rock And Roll Nigger in there.Patti started making up lyrics off the top of her head and then she said,"I don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm so fucking happy".It was obvious she had enjoyed the concert as much as the audience.It was the end and Patti departed after a brilliant concert of 105 minutes.Do you know the original cost of the tickets? £25.00.Thats what i call value in these days of greed.
At the merchandise stall i bought a Patti t-shirt.On the front it said JESUS DIED FOR SOME BODY'S SINS,and on the back it says, BUT NOT MINE.I don't think I'll wear it around Westbury though.They just wouldn't get it.We had a pint in the pub opposite the railway station and had a chat."Do you know where Banga comes from?",i asked Fred."No",he replied."It comes from the book The Master And Margarita' by the great Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov,Banga is the name of Pontius Pilate's dog,have you not read that book?"."No",Fred replied.I havent read it either but i will,so many books,so much music,so little time.Fred got off the train at Trowbridge,it had been great seeing him again..I finally got home at 11.40,tired but happy, thank you very much Patti Smith for a wonderful inspiring evening.