Patti Smith at the Apollo

I’m sharing this piece of writing again as it’s been three years since I saw Patti Smith perform Horses live at the Apollo and Timehop reminded me the other day.


Two days ago Patti Smith played Horses at the Apollo in Manchester and I’m still struggling with the return to reality. I’ve seen her before, at Greenman Festival in the Brecon Beacons where she treated her adoring audience to a tender and heartfelt acoustic set that didn’t disappoint, but did neglect such classics as Gloria and Land. However, Monday night was something entirely different.

‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine’ and my heart was beating at a dangerous amount a minute. It was happening, she was playing the opening lines of Horses but my mind was still in anticipation, it was as if it wasn’t real. It was the most sensational set opener I have ever witnessed, and I’ve seen Prince. I found myself gasping for air to keep up, literally, I was singing along, unable to breathe yet unable to resist. Birdland was treated exquisitely. Smith’s words are resoundingly powerful in this track. ‘His father died and left him a little farm in new England’ she slurs across the mic with with compelling compassion. It is utterly perfect.

She pauses at points to talk about experiences in Manchester, visiting Johnny Roadhouse and buying a guitar, prompting cheers from the crowd and then a laugh as she puts on an accent and ruthlessly, but playfully, takes the piss out of Bob Dylan, which only she could do and no one will tut disapprovingly. Manchester is the city where she’s had the opportunity to take her art and ‘fuck it up’, not play it exactly how it should be. ‘I’m a person, not a record’ and the crowd quite obviously agree.

‘So we’ve finished the A side and we’re gonna’ flip it over to side B’ and she continues. This woman is sixty-seven and more fantastic than any young bands I’ve seen. Her energy is contagious and her wisdom is exquisitely clear. As she moves into Land ‘Johnny is in the hallway’ but it’s a hallway in Manchester and the setting is perfect. She merges it with Gloria and the album goes full circle, it is incredible. As Horses draws to a close you feel as if you should be bowing down. You feel like you’ve been preached to at some form of anti-sermon and that your life has been changed from the experience. Clapping is not enough.

Her band play a Velvet Underground medley and a homage to Lou Reed which began in Elegie is complete. Smith enters the crowd to watch and her humanity is inspiring. She returns for several encores including classics such as Because the Night and Dancing Barefoot, which I thoroughly enjoyed dancing to. Her fabulous conclusion is People Have the Power and your left thinking we do, people do have the power to do whatever the fuck they want. To strike, to vote, to use your voice.

I have no shame in saying I am passionately in love. She inspires me and so many others. She is sensational. Roses were thrown into the crowd post-set and I am the proud owner of one. It is currently being pressed and will be placed in a frame to remember forever. My mum has one as well, from many years ago, and I like to think these are the kind of values and practices Patti herself would be proud of.

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