Live Reviews - Reviews

Patti Smith, Spiritualized & Ariel Pink @ Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin


The last remnants of the Forbidden Fruit stages are being taken down. A few straggling food tents and vans are dotted around the edges of the field beside the obligatory Bulmers festival stands. And the rain is pouring down. It’s only through an organisational miracle that this gig is going ahead at all, really. What was originally meant to be an outdoors affair has instead been forced into two big tops, meaning that those who were lucky enough to secure tickets are tightly squeezed in. However, the lack of space in no way impacts on the energy at tonight’s triumvirate of performances.

Starting off the evening was Ariel Pink. Staggering on stage with a can of Becks and a Speedo-clad drummer, the Haunted Graffiti proceed to burst into a set that is by turns murky and frantic. The sound is quite muddy, and the instruments often seem to flood into each other leading to some confused-sounding songs, but the band themselves are in high form, bouncing around the stage and ordering each other to strip and prance like ballerinas over the course of the hour. The whole set is delightfully weird and after the synth-drenched finale comes to a close, it’s clear that the whole tent has enjoyed itself, despite the vast majority of punters having little idea as to who they’ve just seen.

Spiritualized, meanwhile, are determined to make sure that no-one leaves the tent with their eardrums intact. The four piece (plus backing singers) put on an extraordinarily loud show that leaves fans visibly retreating from the front barriers. However, much like Talk Talk, Spiritualized have captured the ability to make listeners feel as though they are being crushed by the sheer weight of the music around them, and the manic light show accompanying the tonne-weight sound adds up to make the gig feel like it could collapse the ground around the tent with sheer force of sight and sound. There were some people that were noticeably losing interest however, with one guy in particular very near to where I was standing spending the entire hour browsing Instagram and taking the odd video of the show. The crowd was dispersing even before the set was finished, with most people making a beeline towards the headlining tent to wait before it got too crowded.

I’ll be honest; I had some doubts as to whether Patti Smith would still be capable of the same kind of energy that characterised her early career, particularly as her set was going to be comprised almost entirely of songs from her first record, Horses, an album whose tension and bursts of wildfire catapulted her to instant stardom. The moment Patti Smith and her band got onstage, however, all doubts were laid to rest as the band laid instantly into ‘Gloria’, probably the most requested live favourite in Patti’s repertoire. From the first note, the crowd’s eyes are fixed on Patti – she prowls around the stage and sings every note with a kind of intensity that seems to have almost gone out of fashion.

The likes of ‘Redondo Beach’ and particularly ‘Free Money’ make the tent feel like a very small place indeed – the whole place is bursting with sheer glee and every last punter is jumping around with abandon. However, the quiet moments get the respect they deserve – the few people talking through the opening lines of ‘Birdland’ and ‘Elegie’ – where Patti reads out a list of those being remembered tonight, including the Ramones, Johnny Thunders and Rory Gallagher –  are swiftly shushed by the crowd at large. Patti herself seems delighted with the response – she rarely stops grinning and the band is in excellent form. The highlight of the night, however, is a marvellous ‘Land/Horses’, which segues into a reprise of ‘Gloria’ that has the entire tent roaring. Tremendous stuff.

It’s the little things about this gig that really make it stick out in the memory. The guy beside me that insisted that the band play ‘Piss Factory’ at every opportunity and roared every word of every song over the course of the night. The story Patti tells the audience of the last time she came she came to Ireland to play the songs off Horses – her band were not allowed to come to Ireland, so she and her pianist played the songs from the album in a tiny church in front of a handful of local lads, including a young Larry Mullen. The Velvet Underground medley. Patti deciding to skip the usual encore shtick because she “only uses that normally to go for a piss”. By the time the final bars of ‘People Have the Power’ fade away, the crowd are left exhausted, but delighted. Absolutely superb stuff. Mark Jones

Photo by Edward Mapplethorpe