She got out, of course; to move in with Robert Mapplethorpe and become a key figure of New York's artsy avant-garde, and then, with the Patti Smith Group, to help kick-start punk at CBGB's. Her debut album, Horses - rock, reggae, stream of consciousness - had the world eating out of her hand and, though she retired in the 1980s to raise a family, she remains a kind of icon - equal parts, it's been said, Egyptian goddess, celibate Shaker and Jerry Lee Lewis. What she actually looks like is a backwoods matriarch stalking her land with a shotgun, or an Amer-Indian bag lady, all frazzled iron-grey hair, hawk nose and threadbare jacket plus evil little wire glasses for reading. Despite which, as she begins to sing "Dancing Barefoot", she is suddenly deeply sexy; it was written for her husband, MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith, and the passion of a growled "Oh God, I fell for you" still blazes. Fred died about a year ago, and this acoustic set, culled largely from her forthcoming album, Gone Again, deals with death and memories ("About a Boy" is dedicated to Kurt Cobain), but in a cool, uncommonly beautiful way. She accompanies her keening, Dylan- ish voice with animated arm-flailing, so relaxed, despite a big-deal comeback, she doesn't even stint herself a small but impressive belch. She swaps repartee with her band, long-time colleague Lenny Kaye and Oliver Ray, and while they're retuning, slyly puts the audience on. "Here's a liddle pome fer Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan had a dog ... Oh" - as Kaye and Ray get sorted, and she regards us over the specs - "hmm, they're breathing a collective sigh of relief." Part of a cabal who, though exalted, remain wildly, movingly driven, there is a sense you just can't shake off being intimate with a legend tonight. "You're a brave woman, Smith," yells a sycophant. "Yah," she shrugs, before snapping a string. "Ah, shit."
n Patti Smith's three-date UK tour begins in Glasgow, 5 August. 'Gone Again' is released 8 July
GLYN BROWNReuse content