• Michael LaRocco

Patti Smith: Because the Night

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

The Patti Smith concert at the San Francisco Art Institute was a transformational experience, the stuff dreams are made from. I left afterwards completely buzzed like a blind man trying to walk on water, levitated by the sound of Smith’s voice in my head, a sound that stayed with me hours after she departed the stage. I walked from Russian Hill after the show through North Beach through Chinatown all the way to my flat in the Mission District listening to Smith’s music on my iPhone, completely enraptured by the world she created for the audience.

The concert itself was a small and intimate affair. There were maybe 50 people at the concert, mostly artists, students, and old school hipster, people nourished on poetry and believers in dreams. The room was absolutely electric and buzzing from Smith who entered with her long gray hair framing her face like a painting. There was a sense we were about to experience a heightened performance meant only for us, transported through a time machine to a sacred place where we could bask in a kind of odyssey reserved for poets and dreamers.

And we were. The venue for the concert was held fittingly in the Diego Rivera Gallery on the Campus of the San Francisco Art Institute, a cavernous space with high ceilings and dramatic light. Behind Smith was a colorful mural painted by Diego Rivera, "The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City." Around the audience Smith’s black and white photos hung on the walls of the gallery, artifacts of her journey through Mexico, wandering mementos of her colorful past.

Smith’s performance at the concert acted as a type of spiritual journey, like that of a prophet reading poetry from atop a mountain just to make the universe happy. As a performer Smith is alive like a live wire when she performs, feeding the audience anecdotes about iconic artists from the past like Robert Mapplethorpe, Frida Khalo, and Alan Ginsberg, each story rifts on something from Smith’s life and musical adventures, insights into a world you can only imagine as a type of dreamscape, a world so vivid and alive it burns like a fire in the middle of a dark desert. It was at last a performance gifted to the audience by Smith, allowing  the audience to drink from her baptismal waters, granting us all a transcendent musical experience one only associates with hope and rebirth, a feeling that continues to leave me drunk and inspired long after the sound of her voice fades to black in my memory.


Because the Night

Alan Ginsberg



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