Patti Smith Takes on Lollapalooza

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 6, 2007 6:49PM

Braless and wearing an oversized white T-shirt with a hand drawn peace sign and the word "Love" written underneath it, Patti Smith humbly began her set with an extra-Jamaican sounding "Redondo Beach," fumbling some of the lyrics and apologizing to the crowd for being too excited.

2007_8_6_pattismith.jpgWe have been waiting approximately 26 years to see Patti Smith live, and with this spirited, yet slightly clumsy beginning, we were beginning to wonder if we waited too long. But about three songs into the set, Patti had regained her bearings and transformed into the dynamic rock star we've always read so much about. Patti may not have been born with exceptional musical talents, but she makes up for it tenfold in performance.

As the rain poured down, Patti only sank into her performance further, closing her eyes and gracefully motioning her hands toward the crowd as she recited each lyric like a line of poetry. And even though the festival crowd was at least three sheets to the wind at this point, and a cloud of weed smoke had begun to surround the entire audience, we all hung on her every word, almost unable to sing along to hits such as "Because the Night," anticipating that the one moment we broke our focus would be the moment she would lead the rest of the crowd to another level of enlightenment. As she sang her cover of "Are You Experienced?" (from her most recent album Twelve), and she wailed on the clarinet, we felt sorry for all of the suckers who were on the other side of the park watching Spoon. Yeah, we love Spoon, too, but when are you going to get to watch Patti Smith cover Jimi Hendrix during a rainstorm in Grant Park?

By the time she broke into "Gloria," the crowd was going insane with fists pumping in time with each "G, L, O, R, I eye eye eye eye eye eye," and Patti was in full Iggy Pop strut mode. She had once again transformed from peaceful poet to fucking rock star, priming us for the second Nirvana cover we had heard since Friday. (The first being the Polyphonic Spree's cover of "Lithium.") We've heard the words to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" a million times, but they've never given us chills until they exited Patti Smith's mouth and entered our ears.

Just as it seemed the set was about to come to one tight, neat close, Patti grabbed the mic, threw a fist into the air and yelled something to the effect of "I haven't fucked much with the past! But I'm sure as hell gonna fuck with the future! THE FUTURE IS NOW!" as her band thrust into a no-holds-barred version of "Rock 'n' Roll N*****" Everyone jumped in unison as she led us, yelling "outside of society!" until we were all sufficiently soaked in rain and sweat and hoarse from screaming.

God it was a great show.

Because everyone, including our Chicagoist photographers, was busy shooting Spoon, we don't have any shots of Patti in action to accompany this post. Shot of Patti's trunk, also taken at Lollapalooza, via Mister Scratch.