Neil came through Toronto but Patti wasn't with him.
We have some friends in Ottawa we haven't seen in awhile.
So it's on the road again.
Two nights at the idyllic Dewar's Inn on the banks of the St Lawrence are just an added bonus.
The Sadies, the Godchildren of Grunk, were an unexpected surprise for the 2nd Runner Up spot. Love that surf guitar sound. They got to play to an arena 3/4 full as the Ottawa patrons were here early, in good numbers.
The reason they are so appreciative is that not every act comes through this town of one million inhabitants. A good deal of the big acts do, that's why Neil is here. Many of the middle acts, or cult acts, don't get near this burgh. Toronto, yes. Montreal, maybe. But that's usually it. Which is why this is Ottawa's first chance to be treated to Patti's set.
Saw Patti Smith for the first time in April of 2010 at Tipitina's, New Orleans. She opened with The Ronettes Be My Baby, covered Jim Carroll's People Who Died, and was joined onstage by Peter Buck and Michael Stipe for a rendition of Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman with REM frontman Stipe reading the lyrics off his I-Phone. I had no expectation this opening set in an arena was going to surpass that event. She was terrific. At 62 she dances up a storm on stage. It's life affirming to see her standing there, having survived her times, her environment, the tragedies close to her, to stand tall as the Godmother of Punk, representing the best and purist aspirations of that artistic sub-culture. She embodies the most noble attributes of that time; inclusiveness and personal freedom. She's no slacker. Sid Vicious was a punk, he had nothing to do with the revolutionary side of the punk movement. This lady is the real deal.
She starts by acknowledging the crowd response, noting she's never played Ottawa, and is at full speed and strong voice immediately as she launches into the anthemic Dancing Barefoot. Her yelps are in good order early. Next a new song from 2012's Banga, with an old promise to break some rules. April Fool could have been written 30 years ago, a love song. She follows directly with another new song, a prayer to mother nature and the great white mountain, Fuji-San, taking care of any obligation she felt to promote her new material and help Al Gore save the world.
The best Neil Young song of the night comes next as she covers a song from Prairie Wind, It's A Dream. Big quiet arena taking this in, she has 'em where she wants them.
1996 saw Patti dealing with some hardships especially the deaths of many friends and contemporaries, including her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith, her brother Todd, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Sohl and Kurt Cobain, for whom she wrote Beneath the Southern Cross.
That's it for the soft stuff and the shoe-gazing. Now it's on to some fun. A little leftist bait for the post-hippy audience, People Have the Power tries to wake us up to our reality.
The night closes with two songs that just wash over you in a wave of familiarity, can't help but be transported to simpler times when the celebratory Because the Night blasts into the cavernous hall.G-L-O-R-I-A was the perfect cap to a shortened headliner set.
Neil is, well, Neil. A bit of a chameleon. I prefer the CSN&Y version to the Greendale version. The early '70's Massey Hall or Shocking Pink rockabilly Neil were perfectly acceptable. You never know what he's bringing. The Crazy Horse Neil is familiar, that whole Rust Never Sleeps record and all. But on the stage, a couple decades later, it's like he's putting the DUL into self-indulgence. I like the songs well enough, especially the more familiar Needle and the Damage Done, Hey Hey My My and Cinnamon Girl. The new song, Born In Ontario goes over real well here, perhaps better than when he's in the US or out west and it's a fun song. The excessive guitar mash ups throughout the show, 5 minute sonic grudge matches to close out songs, sapped a little of the life out of the evening. 'Course it did allow you to sneak a quick nap during some songs without missing anything. In fact, during Walk Like A Giant, (22:22) I was able to leave the venue, drive to the Parliament Buildings for some photo's, fill up my tank, grab a coffee at Timmy's and get back in time for Needle.
Below are some sound samples, including Patti's complete set, 'cause like I said at the beginning, I wouldn't have been here if she wasn't.
Lay Down Your Arms
Another Year Again
Leave Me Alone
Tell Her What I Said
Ridge Runner Reel (I)
Dancing Barefoot (Wave, 1979) (#323 of Top 500 Singles, Rolling Stone)
April Fool (Banga, 2012)
Fuji-san (Banga, 2012)
It's A Dream (Neil Young cover)
Beneath the Southern Cross (Gone Again, 1996)
People Have the Power (Dream of Life, 1988)
Because the Night (Easter, 1978)
Oath/G-L-O-R-I-A (Horses, 1975 Them cover)
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
O Canada (Calixa Lavallée cover)
Love and Only Love (Ragged Glory, 1990)
Powderfinger (Rust Never Sleeps, 1979)
Born In Ontario (Pyschedelic Pill, 2012)
Walk Like a Giant
Needle and the Damage Done (Harvest, 1972)
Singer Without a Song
Ramada Inn (Psychedelic Pill, 2012)
Cinnamon Girl (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, 1969)
Fuckin' Up (Ragged Glory, 1990)
Cortez the Killer
Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield song)
Hey Hey My My (Into the Black) (Rust Never Sleeps, 1979)
Roll Another Number (for the Road)