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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Patti Smith

Patti Smith hit the stage last Wednesday, May 9 at the Mondavi Center in Jackson Hall. Smith read from and promoted her memoir Just Kids, sang some of her own songs and from other artists and talked about her life.

Smith wore a white dress shirt, a black tie and a black coat with brown boots. Smith’s appearance resembled that of a boy and she addressed how Allen Ginsberg, author of Howl, thought that she was a boy when he first met her. Smith said that she and Ginsberg met while she was getting a sandwich and didn’t have enough money to pay for it. Ginsberg saw this and told her that he would pick up the tab. While they ate, he realized Smith was a girl and said “I thought you were just a pretty looking boy.”

Smith’s humor created a light vibrancy in Mondavi Center — especially when she talked about the kinds of food she and Robert, her ex-lover, would live off of.

“I liked anchovy sandwiches,” she said. “But Robert didn’t like them. We would make lettuce soup and put bouillon cubes in there.” Smith spoke about how she and Robert would listen to the History of Motown together and how she knew when he was on LSD because he would listen to Vanilla Fudge over and over again.

With the audience’s loud laughter, she went to grab her water bottle and asked Lenny K if he would open the top for her and digressed to another one of her sporadic thoughts. “One thing I didn’t like about the women’s movement,” she said, “was that women didn’t want men to open the door for them anymore. I like men to serve me.”

At the end of Smith’s performance, before the Q&A session, she sang Bob Dylan’s song “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Smith’s rendition of Dylan’s song was emotionally filling. Smith composed herself, sat down next to Christopher Reynolds, Professor and Chair for the Department of Music and answered the audience’s questions.

One audience member asked Smith how her sense of mortality affects art. “I just turned 65,” she said. “I seek to be more disciplined, organized, healthy, prolific, attentive, loving to children and [to] be present. I have a feeling I have a long life, but I think now it’s time to get serious about my work.”

Smith doesn’t consider herself to be anyone special and said that she was lucky to have made it big in her career. Smith made it clear that she didn’t go to New York City when she was younger because it was the “cool thing to do” but went because living costs were cheap in that time.

When she answered the question of “What’s your advice for young artists?” she stated, “Go to Detroit and [remember] what’s important is to do great work. If you want to achieve fame and fortune, go to New York and get ten roommates.”

Smith has lived an adventurous life, but she quit public life in 1979 to have children. “I developed discipline, and I believe that things are only in the way if you think they are,” she said.

After being asked about her late husband, Smith briefly talked about how Russell Crowe reminded her of her late husband Fred, who was “private, stoic, loved Beethoven, was a great musician and gave her two children.”

Even though it was a touchy and emotionally-charged subject, the fact that she answered the question proves that she really does love her fans and thinks that they’re important enough to hear her story.

With silly stories of her two children Jackson and Jessy, Smith closed up the Q & A session with her song “Because the Night,” which was a song about when Fred was her boyfriend.

Smith’s humility and sense of humor is noteworthy making her extremely relatable. She’s very human and genuine making the hour-long wait for her autograph worth it.

KARINA CONTRERAS can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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