Patti Smith is a treasure trove of living musical history, and she revealed much of that legacy in song and storytelling on August 9th at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. The concert was a continuation of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the historic venue.
In the company of her seasoned trio, featuring the steadfast Tony Shanahan on bass and keyboards and her skilled guitarist offspring, Jackson Smith, Patti Smith delivered a 13-song panoramic performance that traversed the nuanced phases of her musical odyssey.
Immersed within the transcendental tapestry woven by Patti Smith’s performance at the Lobero Theatre, the revered artist deftly allocated a significant segment of her set to pay homage to the iconic Neil Young. In the preamble, Smith underscored the abiding relevance of Young’s half-century-old cautionary opus, "After the Gold Rush," with a particular emphasis on its haunting line, "Look at Mother Nature on the run / in the 21st century."
A prevailing motif of timeless import resonated throughout the concert, where the indefatigable and spirited 76-year-old Smith held sway. The evening carried a dual mantle of musical excellence and altruism, masterminded by promoter Earl Minnis. This unique musical event was intended to bolster philanthropic causes, including the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (CADA), the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, the venerable Bob Dylan Center, and the illustrious Lobero Theatre. (This luminance was officially crowned by Architectural Digest's recognition, labeling it among the "11 Most Beautiful Theaters in the World.")
Smith’s presentation bore a heartfelt homage to departed musical luminaries, steeped in a spirit of open-heartedness. Straddling the line between gentility and dynamism, she executed the melodic tapestry precisely and interjected her artistic palette, delving into improvisation and deviations from the anticipated trajectory. Her fiery rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" notably showcased this inclination, concluding with a visceral, soul-stirring howl. A comparable impromptu artistic flourish was discernible in her homage to William Blake, manifested in the soulful "My Blakean Year."
The evening bore an enduring thematic thread, punctuated by the motifs of human mortality and veneration of departed legends. From the very outset, Smith dedicated her opening performance of "Grateful" to the memory of Jerry Garcia, aligning it with the anniversary of his passing in 1995—a day she aptly designated his "passing day." Additional tributes unfurled as she channeled Sinead O'Connor's spirit of activism and unfiltered expression through a rendition of "Pissing In A River." The recognition of underappreciated heroes of the alternative rock scene echoed through the chords. Tom Verlaine of "Television" fame—a longtime comrade of Smith—received due honor through her captivating interpretation of "Guiding Light." Likewise, the memory of Robbie Robertson from The Band was granted a haunting tribute in the form of the hypnotic "Beneath the Southern Cross," crescendoing into a poignant chant, "cross over, cross over…"
Returning the focus to her own musical lexicon, Smith concluded the performance with her most iconic compositions. The concert reached its zenith with the resounding chords of "Because the Night," the celebrated masterpiece co-authored with the inimitable Bruce Springsteen. A magnetic encore further augmented the crescendo, featuring the emotionally charged anthem penned with her late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith—"People Have the Power." The emotional audience joined harmoniously, embodying Smith's concluding exhortation: "Use your voice!"
At this juncture, Patti Smith emerges as a beacon of unassailable self-assurance, her musical catalog interwoven with a rich tapestry of cultural references. The allure of her melodic voice and her captivating stage presence synthesized into an unforgettable sonic spectacle, etching one of the most remarkable musical evenings of the year onto the vibrant canvas of the historic Lobero Theatre.