Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent her early childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before her family moved to Pitman, New Jersey, and later to Deptford Twp., New Jersey. In 1967, the 20-year-old moved to Manhattan and joined its underground music and art scene. By 1974, Smith began transforming her poetry into music, initially with guitarist and fellow rock journalist Lenny Kaye, and gradually evolving into incorporating additional musicians to form a full band. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith has released 11 albums, the most recent being 2012’s Banga.
The concert at Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors series was billed as A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Tony Shanahan, but in essence turned out to be a Patti Smith band concert with only a few minutes of readings by Smith. Smith began by welcoming the audience, reading from her 2010 memoirs, Just Kids, and singing “Wing” accompanied by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, on piano and Tony Shanahan on bass. Again she read from Just Kids, then from Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” From there it was a concert, with Smith accompanied by guitarists Lenny Kaye and Jack Petruzzelli, bassist Shanahan and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Jesse Paris Smith played piano at the beginning and end of the performance. The 90-minute set included some of her better-known songs, “Dancing Barefoot,” “People Have the Power” and “Because the Night,” and covers of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” and The Who’s “My Generation.” Smith spoke frequently with a punkish, rebellious attitude, but the set was far from the experimental punk arrangements of her early days. Smith has matured, and now straight, driving rock and roll fare sandwiched a large chunk of smooth, tender songs. Some of her rambling admonitions to members of the audience between songs were abrasive, but her crisp singing and her melodic lyrics were endearingly passionate. Aided by slickly polished arrangements and musicianship, Smith was as real as an artist could be, warts and all.
Super Furry Animals/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/July 21, 2016
Based in Cardiff, Wales, actor/vocalist Rhys Ifans, bassist Guto Pryce and drummer Dafydd Ieuan performed as a techno group in the early 1990s. Guitarist Huw Bunford and keyboardist Cian Ciaran (Ieuan’s younger brother) joined, Gruff Rhys replaced Ifans as vocalist/guitarist, and the band became Super Furry Animals in 1993. Mixing soft pop and folk with ambient sounds and angular solos, the band was labeled as psychedelic pop and gained an underground following. In 2010, after nine cult-favorite albums, Super Furry Animals began a hiatus. In 2015, the band reformed for several concerts, including the 4knots Festival in New York, to promote a reissue of the 1990 album Mwng, which had been out of print. Since reforming, Super Furry Animals has released only one new song, “Bing Bong,” written to celebrate the Wales national football team’s qualification in the UEFA Euro 2016.
Headlining at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, Super Furry Animals performed on a dimly lit stage fitted in white hazmat suits. Rhys occasionally wore an oversized helmet that made him look like a Power Ranger, and barely spoke to the audience, instead choosing to communicate via signage that read “APPLAUSE!”, “LOUDER!”, and “THANK YOU.” With no new album to promote, the band performed a comprehensive retrospective. The songs were backed by looped film clips (bombs dropping, a figure skater skating, a newborn shrieking) and kaleidoscopic geometrics. The sound was experimental music that captured a rhythm. Hypnotic grooves were laced with flighty synthesized layers, as if Radiohead had been joined by Brian Eno. Elements of trip-hop framed some of the songs, while some of the songs that were sung in Welsh recalled a folkier root and others gravitated into swirling looped feedback. After these seemingly wayward ventures, the songs often circled back to more traditional rock sounds with melodious refrains, only to veer off into space again. Far from mainstream music, the experimentation and the challenges presented in Super Furry Animals’ odd song structures were designed for the most adventurous music tastes. The concert ended with the musicians dressed in long wigs and super furry yeti costumes for the last song, then Rhys holding up signs reading “FIN”, “THE END” and “RESIST PHONY ENCORES.”
Rocket From The Crypt/Irving Plaza/July 28, 2016
Vocalist/guitarist John “Speedo” Reis is perhaps the king of the punk rock scene in San Diego, California. After the breakup of his post-hardcore band Pitchfork (1986-1990), he formed both Rocket From The Crypt (1989-2005) and Drive Like Jehu (1990-1995). Rocket From The Crypt adapted its name from the then defunct 1970s punk band Rocket From The Tombs. Rocket From The Crypt achieved popularity with the albums Scream, Dracula, Scream! (1995) and RFTC (1998). Reis then formed Hot Snakes (1999-2005) and Sultans (2000-2007). Rocket From The Crypt disbanded in 2005, reunited for a one-time appearance on the television program Yo Gabba Gabba! in 2011, and reformed in 2013. The band presently consists of Reis, guitarist Andy “ND” Stamets, saxophonist Paul “Apollo 9” O’Beirne, trumpeter Jason “JC 2000” Crane, bassist Pete “Petey X” Reichert and drummer Mario “Ruby Mars” Rubalcaba. The band’s sixth and most recent studio album is 2001’s Group Sounds.
Headlining at Irving Plaza, Rocket From The Crypt lived up to its reputation for an energetic live show, blasting away rock and roll tunes with punk dynamics. Reis coarsely sang the band’s better known songs, including “Middle,” “Born in ’69,” and “I’m Not Invisible” with gruff and grit, using the limitations of his vocal range to best use. The horn section accented the kick in many of the songs. Then, during an extended version of “Come See Come Saw,” Reis threw his microphone at Rubalcaba, seemingly hitting Rubalcaba in the head. The song ended, the band exited the stage, and that was the sudden end of the concert.
Eli “Paperboy” Reed/Hearst Plaza/July 29, 2016
In 2002, Eli Husock graduated high school in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, immersing himself in the juke joint culture of the Deep South. After a year, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he studied sociology in college, hosted a soul-music radio show on the college radio station, and played organ and piano in a church. A year after that, the renamed Eli “Paperboy” Reed returned to Boston, where he launched a career as a recording artist strongly influenced by late 1960s/early 1970s Chicago soul music. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His fifth album, My Way Home, was released on June 10, 2016.
Headlining a free Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors concert at Hearst Plaza, Reed moved from rhythm & blues to spirituals, showing himself to be a disciple of vintage African American music. Backed by organist J.B. Flatt, bassist Michael Montgomery, and drummer Noah Rubin, Reed played bluesy guitar licks and sang from the gut like he was leading an evangelical church choir. The songs sounded old-school, but the flame setting them free blazed like a sudden wildfire. Reed’s music was retro, but demonstrated that roots music is timeless.