Monday, June 29, 2009

Patti Smith!

Dave and I met up in London to see Patti Smith performing as part of the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall (curated by Ornette Coleman this year) on Thursday 18th June. I'd been waiting twenty years for this, and it was worth the wait.

The Guardian review is just about spot-on. Patti's found the perfect backing band for her current phase of poetic and musical creativity in the form of A Silver Mt. Zion. To use a much overused adjective, and to reclaim it's original meaning, the combination was really quite awesome.

Here's a clip of the "Ghostdance" encore, which ended in a transcendent standing/singing/clapping ovation:

The support act was Soap&Skin, which consists solely of a 19-yr old Viennese singer/pianist called Anja Plaschg. This was a huge surprise for almost the whole audience, I think, and would have been worth the trip to London even if Patti Smith had cancelled. Some of her pieces were just voice and piano, some involved pre-recorded electronics (which I'm guessing she was involved in programming). This was the most successful attempt to integrate live playing into prerecorded electronics that I've yet to witness. It was as if she were filling a grid of geometric cells with organic material, the whole thing perfectly integrated. But her voice - WOW! (as one audience member shouted after the first piece) - if you think back to the first time you ever heard Grace Slick, Sinead O'Connor, Kate Bush, Björk - that kind of impact. The lyrics were murky, partially comprehensible, reminding me of the way Mark Hollis sung on his remarkable eponymous solo LP and the last couple of Talk Talk albums. She got up from her piano to face the audience and sing the last piece to a purely electronic backing - as I was trying to decide whether or not I thought this worked, she'd done a little bow and disappeared off the stage. Not a word spoken. I expect we'll hear a lot more from her in coming years. An album came out earlier this years called Lovetune for Vacuum, which I'll have to track down.


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