“Be prepared for the unexpected” was the fortune received by Patti Smith and two of her band mates during lunch on Friday. And it appropriately described the night at the Wiltern, my first time seeing the legendary “Godmother of Punk” perform in all her glory.
Smith blended together two hours of story and song, and the time just flew by. Her tales included a relatable recollection of waiting all night for her boyfriend Fred to call, which inspired the lyrics to her hit, “Because the Night.” Although Smith admitted she and guitarist Lenny Kaye now receive senior discounts when they go to the movies, both can rock as hard as their modern-day counterparts.
Full of bite and a confident slink, Smith simply commanded the stage the entire time. One of the unexpected moments came when Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined in on bass during the middle of the set. Smith explained that she and Flea performed the last night at famed NYC club CBGB’s before its closing, which happened to be on his birthday. With that anniversary date nearing, she had the audience serenade him with “Happy Birthday.”
By the time the main set ended, Smith was on the ground, supplicating herself to the Wiltern at the end of the stage. “You fucking people wore me out…” she growled to the audience’s enthusiastic screams. “But I ain’t done yet!”
The encore provided the final “unexpected thing” when actor Johnny Depp took the stage, prompting the pit area to glow with cellphones and cameras. The last song to send the fans home with was the earth-shattering, “Rock N Roll Nigger” with Flea now returning to finish out the evening. With this being an election year, it was a fitting song to close. Smith left the stage with one final message, to just follow one simple commandment and “love one another.”
Photos and words by Leslie Kalohi.