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Patti Smith live in L.A. -- still a musical shaman at 65

Back in the mid 1990s, as an 18-year-old college student living in New York City, I saw Patti Smith play her first show in 15 years at downtown punk palace CBGBs.

I was already obsessed with her music and writing — I covered songs from her rebellious, beautiful first album, 1975’s Horses, and had written a poem about her (yes, it was called Homage to Patti Smith). So I gripped a copy of the poem and a red rose to give her before the show, which I did, going back stage and handing them to her silently. She took them both, silently.

Later, pressed up against the stage with a friend, just below her microphone, I saw Smith launch into a three-hour show full of fury, power, sweat, and rock ‘n’ roll. On stage, singing with her arms raised, she tore the rose I gave her to shreds, stuffing half the petals in her pocket, and throwing the other half in the air, letting them shower down like bits of red rain.

To those who love Smith’s music — from the landmark Horses to this year’s Banga, filled with references to Russian literature, her old friend, late French actress Maria Schneider, Amy Winehouse, and 2011’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami — she’s more than a muse. She represents something else: the ability to be emotional, literary, musical, and free outside the confines of age, gender, time, and place;. She’s a constant reminder that soulful, smart music exists beyond the current scope of commercial pop for audiences who crave that kind of sustenance.

At Wednesday night’s intimate, private show at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica for Los Angeles radio station KCRW (it will be broadcast Nov. 14 on the station’s Morning Becomes Eclectic), Smith proved her continued worth as a musician and performer. The crowd consisted of less than 200 people, including stars such as Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Tim Robbins, Ed Harris (wearing a fedora pulled over his face), and Ellen Page, who looked just as starry-eyed as everyone else in the packed space. READ FULL STORY

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