Patti Smith

Breadcrumbs from Heaven, Brighton 2005

By Michael Kemp

Review of Patti Smith at the Brighton Dome, Brighton, .

Patti Smith - photo by Edward Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith

Sent a quick text to Jason Weaver: “RIMBAUD WAS A ROLLING STONE” - the answer beeped back in a heartbeat: “OK, SEE YOU ON THE DANCE FLOOR”.

So there we were, up in the Circle at the Brighton Dome Concert Hall, thinking about Mickey Stannard, and looking out for Jason, gazing down onto the multitudinous dance floor while the house lights were still on etc.—couldn’t make him out amongst the teeming crowd—was he in disguise? The lights began to dim…

After receiving a gladiator’s welcome, little girls wanting to touch her spindly legs, boots, and man’s jacket, Patti Smith bounced onto stage, did a coquettish little dance, and began reciting the apocalyptic Piss Factory (her first B-side from way back when) - an impassioned way to kick off proceedings, leading into a new spiffy arrangement of Redondo Beach (which Andy Wilkin used to affectionately refer to as Redundant Beach back in ’76) from the Horses album.

She has beatnik charisma and a winning way with the raucous crowd. They love her to bits. Some girl shouts out something in Japanese and Patti drawls back: “send her to the Royal Pavilion—to the correction room—the correction room is for bad girls - I’m already there…”

She sets up an acoustic guitar figure and begins improvising “Someone Get Me A Job in Brighton” in which she wants “a space opposite the palace” (“palace” deliberately mispronounced to rhyme with “space”) where she can “watch the horses running, running around the Dome…”

I was unfamiliar with a lot of the later material, but thought she mixed light and shade cannily enough. For every avant-garde clarinet solo (I thought of Beefheart), there was a Free Money or a singalong Like A Rolling Stone (introduced as “an old American folk song”) to balance things up. Coaxing squalls of angry feedback from her trusty axe and leaping around the stage like a rag doll, it’s difficult to reconcile yourself with the fact the woman is approaching sixty. Her between-song patter is droll and measured, with a fine line in knowing self-depreciation; then again, she’s had almost thirty years to hone her stage craft. She is, if nothing else, a natural born survivor.

Sooty and I left the concert hall after Because the Night—around 10pm—nothing amiss with Patti or her excellent band (with a somewhat muted Tom Verlaine preferring to remain in shadow); but we were being hassled by security for taking movies and pictures (even though you could glimpse a sea of digital cameras and mobile phones in the darkness) and we felt we’d had our fix. It had been a great night.

I went for a piss on the way out and two middle-aged men were at the urinal complaining about Patti spitting on the carpet. Standing between them I muttered “That’s OK, my Nan does that,” and they both stopped urinating and said “Your granny spits on the carpet?” - I said “yeah.”

On the way out one of them blew off, audibly, and I turned around and said “Beans on toast?” (Smith had been extolling the virtues of an English breakfast and considering the effects of beans on her constitution earlier in the show). Meanwhile, unknown to me, Sooty had fallen over outside the Ladies, but she’s OK now - she loved it, by the way, and is working on the digital piccies now.

Good old Brighton: from Wilde in the Park to Patti Smith at the Dome - we salute you…