Not the case with Patti Smith, who celebrated her 68th birthday (Dec. 30) with a sold out show at New York’s legendary Webster Hall, where Woody Guthrie, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra recorded years ago. Dylan played harmonica at Webster on Harry Belafonte’s "Midnight Special," marking his recording debut.
And as luck would have it, I was there too for Smith's show.
The concert started with surprise opener Michael Stipe (formerly of R.E.M.), specially chosen by Patti. His short set covered Vic Chestnut and Perfume Genius; he also sang "New York, New York" and two deep tracks from the R.E.M. catalog.
That was followed by a cover of Colorado singer songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov’s "The Stable Song." Patti said she fell in love with it while looking for Christmas tunes, as she thought it was about the manger of the Nativity.
At the halfway point she left the stage to her band, headed by Smith's longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye. They did a quick medley of Love’s "My Little Red Book" plus "7 and 7 Is."
Then it was the obligatory Beatles tune "Birthday" (and why not, it was her 68th). That greeted Smith’s return to the stage and the sparks began to fly.
A manic "Ain’t It Strange" set up a dark and passionate cover of Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit." And from there on it was a race to the finish with furious versions of "Gandhi," "Banga," "People Have The Power" and the traditional closer "Rock N’ Roll N*****."
At the end she screamed in a howl of feedback and broken guitar strings: “I’m f***in' 68 years old!!!!"
May we all rock so hard at 68.
[note: a previous version of this article read that Smith opened with "Redondo Beach." Her first song was in fact "Dancing Barefoot."]
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