Saturday 15 September 2012

Patti Smith at Troxy - 13 September 2012

Patti Smith

I was going to blame the venue…

I’m in the Troxy to see the mighty Patti Smith. Patti and her band are the gig equivalent of a home banker. Solid gold every single time.

But not tonight.

When Patti and co come onstage, the immediate impression is that they are very quiet. Not quiet in a reverential sense or because they are playing acoustic instruments (they are not), but quiet in the sense that if I play a Patti Smith record in my living room, it’s louder and more urgent than this.

It’s not an aberration. Smith and the rest sound like they are down the hall in another room.

It doesn’t help that I’m somehow blocked off by people and can’t see – it’s clear from the movement and unrest in the crowd that very few of them can see or hear either.

It is shaping up to be one of the most nondescript gigs ever, until around three quarters of the way through, Patti goes into one of her trademark monologues and dedicates the next track to Pussy Riot.

And then the band play ‘Because The Night’ and the house lights come up and we are all illuminated, a connection is made and it’s wonderful.

From this moment onward, we get a gig. Smith and co change from being something going on in the background to the rabble-rousing hand-clapping air-punching entity that we’ve always loved.

The last fifteen minutes are an extended and euphoric version of ‘Gloria’ intercut with ‘Pissing in a River’. It is wholly magnificent and amongst the finest live musical moments I’ve experienced in the last few years.

So I’m rather stumped as to why the band didn’t make any impression at all until they played a couple of the hits. It wasn’t due to not recognising the material; earlier on they played ‘Free Money’ from ‘Horses’ and I am familiar with the songs from new album ‘Banga’.

I think that it was a combination of a band initially going through the motions and a crowd that stood passively and took it. It needed the sudden spark of an impromptu Patti rant and the lights coming on to kick-start both performers and audience out of a rut.

I’m still not that sold on the Troxy as a venue – I’ve noticed sight and sound difficulties here before. It may be that the thick carpeting on the floor muffles noise and that when bands perform everything goes up into the gallery rather than out to the people standing at ground level.

However despite the myriad problems, tonight’s gig ended as a triumph. We got there in the end.

No comments: