If you were one of the lucky few who got tickets to Patti Smith's 1st Thursdays shows tonight (Thursday, March 7, 7:30 and 9:45 pm) at the AGO's Walker Court, don't show up expecting a concert. Billed as An Evening Of Words And Song, the two performances feature Smith, her adult children, Jesse and Jackson Smith, and bassist/guitarist Tony Shanahan on acoustic instruments.
"Basically I'll be reading and doing some songs," Smith says. "I did something similar in the Diego Rivera Court in Detroit, and it worked very well. I'll try to make reference to some of the works [in the photography show, Camera Solo].
"It won't be abstract. In other words, the poems or songs I choose will directly reference the images. So I might read a poem of Sylvia Plath's, since there's an image of Sylvia Plath's grave in the show."
Can we expect songs from Banga, Smith's excellent album from last year?
"I don't know yet," she says. "We will be doing some songs, but I don't think of it as a concert with a full band and everything. It's really a performance of readings and acoustic versions of some songs. It's possible we might do Because The Night because it's resonant of my husband and therefore of my children. Like the readings, the songs will have some connection to the exhibition."
Smith's appearance two days later (Saturday, March 9) at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is also billed as An Evening Of Words And Music. But instead of jumping off from Camera Solo, the musicians will perform in tribute to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989 and is a central subject of Smith's best-selling memoir, Just Kids, which she wrote "because I promised Robert the day before he died that I'd write it."
That performance was announced after our interview, but presumably the chosen material will reflect that relationship and/or era of her life: late 60s/70s in NYC. Smith is known for her free-form approach to performing, so expect something improvisational, instinctual and riveting.