Patti Smith Opens for Indigo Girls
1. Wicked Messenger
2. Reading of Ginsberg poem "Footnote to Howl"
3. [New Song with word "Hold" repeated in refrain]
4. Dancing Barefoot
5. Reading of stanza re. Denver from Ginsberg's "Howl"
6. Gone Again
7. Redondo Beach
8. Because the Night
9. People Have the Power
10. Not Fade Away
Red Rocks is, quite literally, an awesome setting in which to hear music, with cliff swallows, white-throated swifts, and prairie falcons swirling above and around you at dusk. Unfortunately, I seemed to be one of the few there to see Patti Smith, and considering Indigo Girls an added bonus.
Originally this had been a one-night booking for Thursday. While in queue on Friday, I was told that the night before had been so disastrous for the band that Patti said something to the effect that "I know we suck, but everyone is entitled to suck once in awhile". I did not know, and still don't, whether to attribute this to the sold-out crowds dislike of the music vis-a-vis Indigo Girls or some true cock-up by the band. In any event, I hoped that Patti would be all the more up for Friday's show. In large part, she was.
Patti appeared in black boots, blue jeans, black jacket (later shed), and a violet t-shirt. A spirited "Wicked Messenger" was followed by a credit to Bob Dylan and a note that the next piece was by an important influence on Bob. A reading of Allen Ginsberg's "Footnote to Howl" ended with Patti playing the clarinet in a somewhat eery and shreeky style. Somewhat surprisingly, the reading was received very well by the crowd.
The next song was introduced simply as a new song. I'm afraid I was more caught up in the gestalt of it and was unable to catch the lyrics, a personal foible of mine with respect to new music. Some negotiation followed, with Patti then encouraging people to go to the Mother Cabrini shrine (in Golden) which she had just visited. She noted that she knew from her own experience that locals don't always go to their local important spots, for example she had never been to the top of .... Well, but she had once gone to the top of the Empire State Building but the elevator ride made her sick. But the view was good.
A very stirring "Dancing Barefoot" then ensued, followed by a reading of a brief Ginsberg ("Howl") stanza about Denver (reminding me of Kerouac's "On the Road"), more negotiation and much roadie scurrying. "Gone Again" struck me as fairly muddy and jumbled sound-wise, but Redondo Beach (dedicated to Amy and Emily, the Indigo Girls) was performed in a wonderful downbeat and funky style. More negotiation resulted in "Because the Night", which was done seemingly because it was expected, and so was not gripping, particularly the lead guitar break. More negotiation.
A slow-starting, but then excellent "People Have the Power" hit the amphitheater. I was distressed that certain elements of the crowd were making fun of Patti, by gesture and vocalization, during the late refrains. There seems still to be a need for consciousness raising out there. Fortunately, that's much of what Indigo Girls are about (they later did a great version of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"). But I digress.
Patti then noted that there was a full moon behind the clouds, "It's a great night." The band worked into a brief "Not Fade Away" in which at one point Patti was winding her arms to get the band cranking. Then, "I think I forgot the words to this fucking song", followed by some improvisation on the "true" lyrics, and then on things to be grateful for such as "Be grateful for the air you breathe," and ending on "Be grateful for my anger and my charity." My thought was, "You tell 'em, Patti."
A very short set, only 45 minutes. Yet I was privileged to have made the trip from sweet home New Mexico.
Copyright © Jeff Myers 1997