Patti Smith is 66-years-old, but at the Neptune Theatre Wednesday night she put on a vibrant and energetic performance that one might expect from someone 50 years her junior. She played 20 songs over nearly two hours, but every moment was taut, dramatic and filled with poetic meaning. It was everything a rock ’n’ roll concert should be.
Smith began with “April Fool,” from her latest album, but quickly moved back to “Redondo Beach” and “Free Money” from her 1975 debut “Horses.” She’s played these songs thousands of times over the years, but she sang them intensely with her eyes closed, and her arms into the air, like a shaman reciting a chant.
Her many stories between the songs were funny and displayed a surprising awareness of the pop-culture mainstream. She touted “The Killing” as the best show on television, and joked that she’d have been a better Oscar host than Seth MacFarlane.
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Then she had second thoughts: “If I hosted the Oscars, the fashion police would all shoot themselves in the head.”
Smith was wearing her usual vintage man’s suit coat, ripped jeans, boots and watch cap.
Smith always name checks Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix when she plays here. Guitarist Lenny Kaye added the Sonics and the Ventures to that roster, but also called Seattle “one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll cities.” Kaye took over vocal duties for a handful of garage-rock covers including “Born to Lose” by the Heartbreakers.
When Smith came back to the microphone, she joked that this detour into garage rock was what she dreamed of: “When I was a young girl I always wanted a bar band of my own when I grew up.”
Smith won a National Book Award for her “Just Kids” memoir in 2010. She talked briefly about her youthful desire for stardom, but there was never a point where the show felt nostalgic.
Smith has played in Seattle 30 or so times over the years, and I’ve seen nearly every show. But in all those performances her voice has never sounded better, nor has Smith ever seemed more energetic than on Wednesday night.
Charles R. Cross: email@example.com