Kevin Winter, Getty Patti Smith, punk pioneer and unlikely art photographer…
- Posted on Mar 8th 2013 4:00PM by Liisa Ladouceur
Art Gallery of Ontario
Arthur Rimbaud to Allen Ginsberg, Amy Winehouse to her late husband Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5 -- throughout her two sets at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario last night, Smith paid homage to the many artists who've inspired her, the "chosen ancestors" who have passed on physically but, in the words of her song "Ghost Dance" shall live again.
The two hour-long acoustic sets -- intimate, 400-person capacity affairs held beneath the gallery's beautiful spiral staircase -- were presented in conjunction with her photography exhibit Camera Solo, currently on display. Tickets had sold out in record time and gallery patrons without access to the concert space crowded around speakers to listen in or craned for a glimpse of the punk rock poetess through the security barricades. Smith emerged, with her daughter Jesse Smith on piano and bassist Tony Shanahan, and proceeded to enthral the audience with a selection of songs that celebrated art and life.
The first set was a somewhat subdued affair, music mixed with Smith reading excerpts from her memoir "Just Kids." She read of her introduction to the beat poet Ginsberg (who bought her a sandwich because he mistook her for a pretty boy) then performed her song "My Blakean Year" in his memory. She spoke of Rimbaud, and of the replica of the wooden stretcher that once carried him, gangrene-stricken, across mountains, which she has created and installed in Camera Solo. She performed her tribute to Amy Winehouse, "This is the Girl," and then "Pissing in a River," with its lyrics "come back, come back" and "Ghosts of the Southern Cross" for her husband Smith, as though she was gently, lovingly, coaxing the spirits of the departed to join in.
Later in the evening, a playful Smith started with "Dancing Barefoot" and "Redondo Beach" before leading the crowd in a spirited version of "Ghost Dance."
"Our ancestors are there for us," she explained, of the song. "It's important to call to them, to remind them they have strength beyond the physical world, that they have life on this planet."
She joked around, she praised Neil Young and stopped hearts with her version of his "It's a Dream", she brought out the local singing group Choir, Choir, Choir to join her on a jubilant "Because the Night," then closed out the evening with rousing "People Have the Power" -- dedicated to Stompin' Tom Connors, the Canadian folk music legend who passed away just the night before.
"I'm so happy!" she exclaimed as she left the stage. All those present -- living and dead alike -- were pretty happy too.