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Concert Reviews:
Patti Smith caps Detroit visit with special charity show

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, June 4, 2012

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DETROIT -- The adage says you can't go home again, but onetime St. Clair Shores resident Patti Smith capped a triumphant return to one of the key locales in her life on Sunday night, June 3, with as unique and intimate of a show as any fan could hope for.

Smith's 13-song unplugged performance with son Jackson (on guitar) and daughter Jesse (on keyboards) -- part of a "Detroit marathon" accompanying the opening of the new "Patti Smith: Camera Solo" photography exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts -- took the 200 or so fans at the Sohar Room in Sinbad's on the Detroit River into an approximation of the family living room. The music was mostly spot-on but the mood was warm, casual and congenial, with plenty of joking and even occasional light-hearted familial banter about song keys or other foibles. Save for a stage, the more formal trappings of performance were absent at what could have just as easily been a rehearsal or a house party.

And it was for a good cause, raising money for the Calling All Angels auxiliary of Detroit's Covenant House for runaway children.

Smith -- who also played two shows and did a poetry reading at the DIA during her visit -- was smiling and chatty throughout the 90-minute show, talking about her late husband, former MC5 guitarist Fred Smith, and visiting "old haunts" such as Lafayette Coney Island, where she planned to eat just one hot dog but wound up consuming two ("So I had to take a lot of Chinese herbs afterwards," she cracked). She also relayed greetings to the crowd from pals such as Johnny Depp and Michael Stipe, who she'd sent cell phone photos of the Sohar Room, with its pair of deer head trophies on the north wall.

Smith also dedicated her performance of "Wing" to the Beastie Boys' late Adam "MCA" Yauch, noting that "we all remember him by not only his music but all his humanitarian efforts," and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to her late father-in-law, Dewey Smith, who she predicted was "in hillbilly heaven, just laughing away" after her performance.

The rest of the set dug deep into Smith's catalog for favorites such as "Grateful," "Redondo Beach," "Ghost Dance," "My Blakean Year" and "Beneath the Southern Cross," and she covered Neil Young's "It's a Dream" while also throwing in an endorsement of his new album, "Americana," which comes out Tuesday (June 5). Smith has a new album, "Banga," coming out that day, too, and she previewed the track "This is the Girl," a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.

Rapt attention then turned to rocking exuberance as the Smiths lit into "Because the Night" and "People Have the Power, with the crowd sing along to the choruses and crowding in front of the stage. David Black of the Detroit bands Seduce and Crud strapped on Patti's guitar for the show-closing "Gloria," and anyone catching a view of the room from outside would have thought a fully plugged-in band was rocking away.

Patti noted at the end of the night that "as we've said before, perfection is not our beat," but it was closer to that mark than she knew -- or perhaps cared to acknowledge. It was, as she put it earlier, a "wonderful culmination" of her visit to a former home and a memorable present for both the charity and the fans lucky enough to be there.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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