PATTI SMITH at the AGO’s Walker Court, Thursday, March 7. Rating: NNNN
Patti Smith has been adamant about not calling her 1st Thursday performances at the AGO "concerts" yet that's essentially what she delivered, with no complaints from the rapt audience. Though she paused several times to read from her memoir Just Kids and dedicate songs to the deceased who appear in her Camera Solo photography show, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Rimbaud and her husband Fred Sonic Smith, rather than disrupt the evening's musical flow, the words enhanced it.
Smith is a personable and gracious performer. On a small stage in the gallery's cavernous Walker Court, she began with Grateful, from 2000's Gung Ho, after telling us how grateful she was to have an exhibit at the AGO. Shaking her hands and raising her arms, her voice deeply resonant, she worked through spirit-summoning tunes Ghost Dance, My Blakean Year and Beneath The Southern Cross, with Tony Shanahan on acoustic guitar (and beauty harmonies) and her daughter, Jesse, on piano.
Despite the 7:30 pm crowd's restraint and Smith's microphone coming unplugged, the show reached an emotional crescendo with 1976's Pissing In A River and 1978's Because The Night, which followed Smith's reading of a letter she'd written to Mapplethorpe that he didn't get to hear before he died. It all sounds sombre on paper, but witnessing the remembrance of the beloved dead by someone so defiantly alive - she ended with People Have The Power! - was nothing short of goosebump-raising.