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The Patti Smith Quartet at Vicar Street, Dublin

Excitement was running high in Vicar Street as folk at the sold-out gig on Thursday, June 27 waited for Patti Smith to come on stage. She did so to rapturous applause and a few shouts of “We love you, Patti”. Smiling and relaxed, she put her hand on her heart and said “And I love you, too”.

Attired in her customary black jeans, white tee, waistcoat and black jacket, she told us that she’d had to swap her black boots for her white Keds trainers because the boots had been sticking to the carpeted stage.

Joined by her son Jackson Smith on guitar, Tony Shanahan on bass and keys, and Seb Rochford on drums, Patti kicked off with ‘Summer Cannibals’. Next, introducing ‘Redondo Beach’, she explained that she and Lenny Kaye (whose presence I missed), had co-written the song in 1978 for the displaced Hopi tribe. She dedicated it diplomatically to the many downtrodden people around the world today, driven from their lands.

On Substack two weeks ago, I had seen Patti rehearse Bob Dylan’s ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’. She had some doubts she could do. That was up next, and very well it went.

Four more of her own songs followed: ‘Ghost Dance’, ‘Boy Cried Wolf’, ‘Nine’ and ‘Peaceable Kingdom’. Patti was on fine form and clearly enjoying being on tour. During ‘Wolf’ she emitted a curse at one point as she forgot the lyrics and mis-sang a few lines. At the end she berated herself laughing: ‘Fuck, I wrote the song, I should know the lyrics’. She then recited them correctly for us and we all cheered.

She threw us a curveball next by singing a cover of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’, beckoning the audience to sing with her. We didn’t need much encouragement. Self-deprecatingly, she said at the end that she often found a new song that she loved, only to discover that it had been out ten or more years. This was followed by a rousing version of ‘Because the Night’ with most of us singing along lustily.

At that point, Patti openly announced her usual ‘Patti pee break’ and exited the stage, leaving the band to rock out in a blistering cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire’.

Introducing her band, she said that Tony Shanahan’s parents had moved to the USA from Cork, and that he had relatives who were in the room. Indeed, I met a cousin in the bathroom and sat beside one of his friends. Another of Tony’s Irish friends, Billy, was later invited onstage to play keyboards for the encore. There’s always connections to be made!

As at all her gigs, Patti does so much more than simply perform her songs. She engages warmly with the audience as if we were just a handful of people in her sitting room. She spoke movingly of her late husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, who died 30 years ago. Also, of their shared mourning of Kurt Cobain who had died earlier the same year. She told us it was her daughter Jesse’s birthday and that she missed her. She respectfully asked if we would agree to sing Happy Birthday for a live video message to be sent to Jesse – and of course we obliged in full voice. At one point she went over for a quick consult with her son Jackson, and left him with a gentle motherly cuff – saying with a smile, “He needs a whack every once in a while”.

After ‘Dancing Barefoot,’ she announced a costume change was due – and promptly simply shed her jacket, making us all laugh.

The 90-minute set ended with a rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, in tribute to Kurt Cobain. Returning for the encore, she said this song was for all of us, stating “People have the Power: use your voice’, before launching into the song.

Patti’s final piece of advice to us before leaving the stage after an inspirational show was, “Make sure and drink plenty of water!”

I left happy and everyone I saw had smiles on their faces, too. A contender for best gig of the year! Dolores Vischer

Photos by Matt Gorman