DVD Review: “Patti Smith Live at Montreaux 2005″

Patti Smith

Live at Montreaux 2005 (Eagle Rock)

By Brian Arsenault

“She is a benediction.”

I was gonna do a combo review, you know, with one or two other DVDs. But Patti Smith deserves rather more than that, don’t you think? I mean, the first half dozen plus songs from this live concert DVD, ‘cept for maybe one, are just pure rock classics. More intelligent than many but connected to all.

One of Patti’s guitarists floats some liner note shit that she and the band “are jazz” but I think that’s just cuz they were impressed with themselves for playing Montreaux, where Miles and Ornette and all the others graced the stage.

Pati Smith

But “25th Floor” is a hard rocker where Patti takes her jacket off and just blasts it.

“Beneath the Southern Cross” has Townshend-like lyrics of “callow mist” and “to cry not any cry.” Patti picks up her acoustic guitar and strums frantically with Lenny Kaye while Tom Verlaine picks out the lead in a guitar storm while she twirls onstage.  This is performance rock for sure with an extended guitar break worthy of Pete.

On “Dancing Barefoot” you may lose your sense of place while Patti loses her “sense of refugee.” On “Redondo Beach” she shows she can spit as well as she can sing. That’s certainly rock, eh?

One (or two) of the satisfying things about this DVD is that it is simply shot on a simply lit stage. No distracting lighting or pyrotechnics or weird camera angles — must be that classy jazz influence, you say — and that’s terrific because to watch Patti work is one of those looks into true artistry. Like on her one universally known song, “Because the Night,” where her hands are as expressive as her voice.

She snarls out the opening lines of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” before sharing the vocals with a band mate.  She might send a chill up your spine on this one.

Of course we also have to endure “activist” Patti.

A wonderful start to a Grateful Dead like rendition of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” gets muddied while fading into “Momenti Mori.”  There’s something cloying about rich musicians, actors, etc. attacking the rich who got there by actually doing something like building a business.  Remember that video of the Dead climbing into their Corvettes and Porsches after the tour where barefoot kids sold tie-dyed t-shirts to get enough to share a bowl of rice, blow a joint and see the show.

And a peace ballad, really Patti?  Is this 1967? Hasn’t our generation finally learned that war and conflict are the natural condition of human kind. How’s that Arab Spring going?  In Egypt, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Plus, you know what they say about the Irish, they only want two things: peace and revenge.

As for the claim that “People Have the Power,” would that be the people who want to impose sharia law or the guys serving in the army or the shop owners or the Occupiers or the NRA? Which people? Please tell me, Patti. Or is it just “all that jazz”?

But still, Patti, when you’re being something better than an activist — that is, an artist — well then,

“Oh God, I fell for you.  Oh God, I feel the fever.”

To read more posts, reviews and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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