By DAN MACINTOSH
Appropriately, Patti Smith read lyrics for “People Have The Power” to open her enthralling set at Walt Disney Hall. She was, after all, participating in the Herbie Hancock curated Power to the People! festival, and her empowering anthem makes for the perfect series theme song.
Smith mentioned early on how it was her first time playing this venue, which is better known for classical and jazz music, rather than Rock N Roll. Toward concert’s end, though, Smith demonstrated how she is much more CBGB than Walt Disney Hall by spitting not once, but twice on the stage! It wasn’t a perfect show, as she admitted to getting some of the words wrong during the rarely performed “Citizen Ship,” but the woman who wrote about how people have the power, displayed a whole lot of that motivated energy this night.
The audience responded energetically by dancing along with “Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances” and “Gloria” toward show’s end. Smith is over 70, for heaven’s sake, but she still bounced around the stage like a lifelong punk rocker. She sang songs for Kurt Cobain, French actress Maria Schneider and Johnny Depp, and – of course – performed “Dancing Barefoot” (early on) and the hit “Because the Night.”
She also played a piano-only-backed cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” and commented on how this ’70s environmentalist anthem is just as relevant today.
Smith encored by singing “People Have the Power,” accompanied this time by singers from Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. Although she began the song in front of this youth choir, she eventually drifted back in between two of its members, blending in with the group. This move exemplified how the people – all the people – have the power.
We all have a voice, and we all need to speak out, as this song’s lyrics reminds us. We’re living in troubled times, but Patti Smith proved how she is not at all about to go gently into that good night. She still has a whole lot of power, people!
Patti Smith – People Have the Power – Video courtesy John Morris