Gig review: Patti Smith, Glasgow

Patti Smith's debut album Horses sounded as fresh as ever, four decades on. Picture: AFP
Patti Smith's debut album Horses sounded as fresh as ever, four decades on. Picture: AFP
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“Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Has any debut album ever marked its territory with a greater opening line than that?

Patti Smith - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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Forty years after its original release, Patti Smith’s Horses remains a proto-punk classic. Any concerns that this anniversary tour would be a tired nostalgic exercise were obliterated as soon as Smith arrived and blasphemed defiantly. She had the crowd at “Jesus”.

Backed by a whip-tight four-piece band including original guitarist Lenny Kaye, she charged through Horses in its entirety. Her commanding voice hasn’t aged at all.

As she sang and – sometimes literally – spat her poetry with impressive, vital clarity, the band matched her ecstatic peaks and valleys with gut-punching economy.

The missing link between The Velvet Underground – Horses was produced by John Cale from that seminal group – and Springsteen’s E Street Band, this grey-haired unit are the only living argument for punk theatre.

Once they’d finished with Horses, they even got away with a Velvets medley. Pure cabaret, but charming and earned in this context.

Nevertheless, everything following the main set was an anti-climax. It’s impossible to top the tumultuous psychodrama of Land and the comedown of Elegie – here touchingly dedicated to fallen comrades such as Smith’s late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5.

But isn’t that fitting? Horses was arguably her one-shot flash of musical genius. Tonight, basking in the rapture, she looked proud of that achievement. She should be.

Seen on 09.06.15