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May 16, 2022

Patti Smith rocks Bluesfest with ‘anarchic spunk’

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Patti Smith received a standing ovation. (pic Jeff Dawson)
Patti Smith received a standing ovation. (pic Jeff Dawson)

After weeks of weather chaos that saw roads blocked, planes grounded and low lying fields flooded, Bluesfest got off to a smooth and inclement weather free start last night when thousands made their way to 28th annual Blues and Roots Festival.

Stand outs on the night were Mavis Staples, Rhiannon Giddens , Trombone Shorty and of course the enigmatic stylings of St Paul and the Broken Bones but the night belonged to Patti Smith performing her iconic album ‘Horses’.

The revolutionary rocker had lost none of her anarchic spunk, instead she seemed to have gained momentum, standing front and centre weaving poetry between rock ballads and a call to arms to the crowd asking them to stand in defiance against corporations and government ‘destroying the environment and the planet’.

‘People have the power’ she sang somewhat poignantly. Music and art was still a place for dissidence she told the audience, and held up her guitar and declared ‘This is my weapon’ to a massive cheer from thousands packed into the Mojo tent.

Perhaps the strongest moment of her show wasn’t actually the impressive rendition of her album but a version of The Who’s classic ‘My Generation’. Originally sung as an anthemic howl against the establishment by the young, here was a grey haired, unbotoxed rock and roll septuagenarian (yes she’s 70!) belting it out, giving the song  fresh context.

It was startling and inspiring to see an ‘old’ woman free of make up and artifice and gloriously free of plastic surgery stand front and centre as an ageing rock n roller. We might see Mick Jagger and a host of men fulfil this roll, but we don’t see many women step up. Smith finished My Generation with an adaptation of the ‘I hope I die before I get old’ to ‘I hope I get really fucking old’ ‘Like 90, or 10 or 110’. Then she did a guitar solo and broke all the strings on her guitar. Classic rock n roll finish.

For a music festival that embraces a broad demographic, from 9 months to 90, it was an absolute cracker of a start to a festival that celebrates ‘real’ music by ‘real’ musicians.

Bluesfest continues until Monday with Patti Smith playing an acoustic set later today.

For tickets and line up info go to bluesfest.com.au

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Great review! A friend recently introduced me to Patti Smith’s work as a prose writer. I just finished two amazing books – The M Train and Just Kids. There’s several more. Luminescent work! We should have her at the Writers Festival too, no question.

  2. Living in the past .. saw most of the ‘fest headliners back when they were something .. Robert Plant and Zeppelin for example ..

    Patti Smith was awesome and relevant in the 70’s as a punk junkie but how much longer do we have to endure twilight performances from ageing rockers peddling redundant and failed grassroots politics and doing superannuation tours before they shuffle off?

  3. Object to the ‘old’ references, what’s old ? We saw her concert in Sydney and she was amazing, and no one thought of the word ‘old’ FFS – I too am a 70 yr old – and am not OLD.

  4. I agree with Tina and am a bit appalled by Fransisco and Christopher
    ( Frankly I find your opinions disgusting and you are probably seasoned trolls)

    Why is there this constant need to disrespect our elders ? Not everything new is necessarily good (nor bad) and there is a lot to be learned from some of our crappy, shabby history from the voices who witnessed it.

    If you are so frightened by age, that says more about you and your life and your wasted years and your terror of your mortality than anything else. If you fear the time slipping away, make more of your own life now, don’t blame age for YOUR shortcomings and fear and failings.

    Until you are dead, life is life no matter how many years it has experienced and I’d rather a Buddy or a Patti or a Carlos over some of the young guns’ “talent” any day – the older I get the more I am embracing who I am and who I am becoming, and she is so much more than she who once was…

    Time some people grew up and realised our elders are beautiful.

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