Review: Patti Smith

Serpentine Sessions, London, 29 June 2010.

The Serpentine Sessions are becoming one of my favourite London gigs; interesting bands in a pleasant environment in Hyde Park, with an outdoor stage allowing relaxed drinking in the sun before the main acts go on.

I’m embarrassed to see that Fionn Regan is a man; for some reason I’ve always read his name as a variant of Fiona. His folky stylings are perfectly fine, and I applauded at the time, but I’m really struggling to remember anything about what he sounded like. Given that the last three bands I saw in this tent were Mumford & Sons (a second-stage support for Neil Young), Big Star (RIP Alex) and Tindersticks, this is a bit of a disappointment.

But of course this time we’re there to see the headliner: crossing another one off my list of ‘great artists who I never thought I’d get to see live’. Patti doesn’t disappoint; after a slightly rocky start she’s soon playing with maximum energy. In a short, sharp set she plays most of my favourites: I would have loved to have heard Kimberley, off Horses, but I suspect she doesn’t play that much. And I’m going to take a wild guess that Rock ‘n’ Roll N****r doesn’t get any live airings these days (which is a pity because it’s such a great song, but it’s fairly obvious why). [Edit: setlist.fm has some recent sets which show that song, seemingly played as an encore instead of Land – I want both of ’em dammit!]

You get what you’d expect/hope for really – Redondo Beach, great versions of Free Money and Till Victory, plus Because the Night, Pissing in a River – only Redondo Beach was a bit shaky; plus a handful of covers: the Stones, Jim Carroll’s new-to-me People Who Died (a defiant punk blast through a list of, well, people who died (“they were all my friends”) with added namechecks for Fred Sonic Smith, the Ramones, and Robert Mapplethorpe) and a joyous singalong Perfect Day. The main set ends with a blast through People Have the Power that made me want to quit my job and find some barricades to man, and the encore is a frantic rush that begins with Patti’s beat poetry, continues through Land, and then melts into Gloria.

Only 15 songs, but at least 7 or 8 of them were quite wonderful, a good mix of the expected and the unexpected. Definitely a good fun night.

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About simonchamberlain

New Zealand librarian and music fan, living in London.
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