Culture, Live Reviews, Rock — July 12, 2013 at 10:05 am

Live review: Patti Smith in Berlin

© dpa - Die Welt

© dpa – Die Welt

July 2nd, 2013
Citadel Music Festival, Berlin
Reviewed by: Ivalo Frank

I really didn’t expect much of the Patti Smith concert at the Citadel Music Festival in Berlin. Having experienced quite a few ‘retro’ concerts, and having been largely disappointed, I’m usually rather skeptical of old bands churning out their back catalogues and highlighting their increasing lack of contemporary relevance. For me personally, nostalgia is only interesting for so long.

Patti Smith however, was an exception to the rule and rarely have I been so impressed. She felt bang up-to-date and she absolutely owned the stage. She moved and possessed the audience with waves of warmth and genuineness and from the outset it was clear that this was no lady prepared to rest on her laurels, living off our dreams of her past glories, as she stalked the stage exhorting the crowd in the name of Snowden, the people of Brazil and the residents of Istanbul.

Within moments of the opening bars of ‘Privilege (Set Me Free)’ the most culturally diverse audience that I have ever seen  – elderly men and women, thirties professionals, punks, Goths, teenagers and children – were eating out of her outstretched hands. ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me’, she incanted in one of the sets many magical moments, before essentially disregarding Christianity with a guttural, ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine’, her legendary and electric opening to ‘Gloria’.

Did it feel nostalgic? No.

Living on the fame of yesterday? No.

Here was an artist completely in tune with both our political situation, armed with an up-dated musical catalogue, combining improvised poetry set to increasingly intense rhythms, and culminating in ‘Horses’ a song about violence, and intensity, coupled with aggression, hatred and love and with reworked lyrics including references to humankinds latest strikes, revolutions and quests for democracy and freedom.

I have known of Patti Smith’s music for a long time and my interest was reignited after reading her book, ‘Just Kids’ (2010) a couple of years ago. There was an honesty and directness to her writing, which really captured my attention, but I still felt that she belonged to a different time. However, after having seen her live, I am proud to say that I am now a bona fide fan. Her music is incredibly original, her lyrics possess a rare potency and as a person, Patti Smith stands apart from any clichéd evaluation of age and time.


– By Ivalo Frank

Born in Greenland to Danish parents in 1975, Ivalo Frank is a writer, film and festival director based in Berlin. She holds a a MA in Social Anthropology from Lund University, specialising in the logic of art. She has contributed to a number of art catalogues, books and newspapers including (H)art (BE), Dagbladet Information (DK) and Asian Art Newspaper (UK).