Patti Smith by Stefania Ianne
Patti Smith by Stefania Ianne

Nothing compares to seeing Patti Smith live. I never tire of seeing her. I never tire of listening to her. Her passion is stronger than life, her passion is stronger than time, time passing fast, pushing her over the 70-year barrier, making her seemingly fragile. She is human, I remind myself while watching her, she will not be there forever. I will miss her terribly when she will give up performing live, and she will, she will.

She started her performance reading Allen Ginsberg’s verses, “Holy, holy, holy, holy, everything is holy”, she thunders on stage. She fascinates us with her words, she enchants us with her presence, she conquers us with her musical powers. A powerful band surrounds her, including her son Jackson and the faithful Lenny Kaye. Throughout the show they stare at her, for renewed inspiration. They look at her as if something extremely precious and totally unexpected is happening in front of their eyes. She is beyond charismatic and her performances become more otherworldly with the passing of time. What are we going to do when she stops performing? Her shamanism is irreplaceable, I muse with another member of the audience. We have previously viewed Courtney Barnett’s electrifying performance. Maybe she can take a shot, I suggest? But Patti’s mystical energy is irreplaceable, my fellow audience member responds with a wonderful smile, behind her sunglasses. I know she is right. Seeing her live in the golden light of the sun going down on London moved me deeply, her performance was extremely powerful yet fragile. She gives it all. She gives more. She conquers all, even the arrogant youth pushing their way forward at all costs, determined to be part of the party.

Arrogant youth? That does not apply to Courtney Barnett, this is the first time I hear her live and she sounds fresh and fascinating and exciting. I just fell in love with Avant Gardner and Depreston – right? Preston is depressing even in Australia? The reputation follows the name… The festival format just leaves me wanting more. Pity in London everybody sells out so goddamn fast. Maybe next time.

I could not forget to mention Mr Tillman’s concert on the previous All Point East weekender. A bit of a let down by comparison, despite the special effects provided by God in the shape of lightning and thunder. Father John Misty is in and out of the festival too smoothly, He is a slick operator and his lyrics are sharp. The festival might be just a showcase, attempting to reach out a different kind of crowd – full as it is of pretty Scandinavians religiously waiting for Björk, probably the wrong crowd. All in all Misty appears a tad out of place and slightly arrogant. Though he gets most of the laughs from the crowd when he calls out the fake old London look of the shops surrounding the stage. “I keep on imagining Godzilla appearing at the horizon and crashing this amazingly fake shop front. We should have thought about recreating that, we have the budget, right?” My thoughts exactly. He ventures into his own personal eulogy of Björk, she is so high up in the music stardom, that even FJM has never met her.

Björk’s concert was definitely out of place. She concedes a couple of dance hits to the crowd but mostly she is pedalling her new age save the planet philosophy, with a stage made entirely of greeneries and 7 flute pipers, floating about – a DJ is stuck in the corner and a percussionist rarely appears at the opposite side of the stage. The stupendously hi-res pics being projected on the huge screens at the side of the stage are a show of its own, but Björk remains a mystery, hiding behind an orchid mask. It sounds like her, rolling those RRRRS but to be honest it could be anybody behind the orchid mask. Moreover, I can’t compete with the tall Scandinavians, my visual window to view the stage is really tiny and I can’t get over my tiredness after a hot and sticky festival day. The music is not taking me places.

By comparison the headliner the following weekend, the Bad Seeds, out stage all performances over the 2 weekends. Nick Cave at 60 is a power house and throughout the concert I am fascinated by his energy and by Mr Warren Ellis and his shenanigans. The show is a crowd pleaser, even fellow Australian pop superstar Kylie Minogue herself appears on stage to duet with Cave on their only collaboration, the Where the Wild Roses Grow. Minogue is all smiles, diminutive despite her golden dress, tiny against what appears to be the tallest man on earth, tonight, Nick Cave in his elegant suits and new shoes… So much so that, after the first number, Jesus Alone, Cave asks for a knife to cut through the new leather. He moves so swiftly between the stage and a platform over the crowds during the performance I do fear he will fall in the pit or over the adoring crowds in his patent leather brand new shoes. He doesn’t. He pulls it off, the consummate performer that he is.

“I sat and cried… boohoo” he mimics half serious, half exasperated, in case it is not clear, during From Her to Eternity… True, some of the songs are drawn for too long, Stagger Lee for one, but I must confess the performance is definitely worth the wait under the evening sun, amidst the suffocating pushing crowds. “Come on come on come on”, he encourages the audience to follow him on stage after dragging the security with him across the crowds to reach a platform just behind us… It took him ages to cut through the crowd, “That was fucking difficult”, he declares… Tell me about it, Nick, we’ve been fighting for space and air for hours… “Come on, come on, come on” he goes on and on and on until the crowds around us start pushing their way to the front, they climb over the fence. Amused I see the security running like headless chicken around me. Beautiful… The crowd just follows the leader, the security need not panic, the crowd just does what it is told. It sings like the children choir, sits down and jumps up on demand, just like a musician in the hands of a master conductor. Beautiful. We try to move away from the crowds, it’s getting too tight for air. My friend literally gets carried away, her bracelet stuck into somebody’s pullover… In the distance the choir accompany Cave, “You got to just keep on pushing, push the sky away…”. The man can boast magical powers.

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