I first noticed the advertisement in the Village Voice last month: Patti Smith & Television at the Roseland Ballroom Saturday October 2 8:00.
This is exactly the kind of show I want to attend: bands I loved in the seventies, older and wiser, less hair and nicer clothes, singing tunes I remember from being a teenager mixed in with a list of songs I've never heard because I stopped buying their records at some point. Although I had seen both of these acts in the past, I had never seen them on the same bill. For some reason the ad drew me and I thought about it for weeks.
Being a new father with a wife who is a full-time homemaker and mother, and working too many hours which leaves little time to spend with my child, there is less time and money for attending rock shows. "This," I thought to myself "is the first show I regret missing."
You see, prior to enlarging our family, we were a two-income family with all the time in the world to ourselves. Mrs. Mac and I could do pretty-much anything we wanted. Attending a show we wanted to see was never an issue. It's different now.
Eventually the ad in the Voice slipped from my consciousness. I stopped worrying about my inability to see a show I wanted to see. Any random three seconds holding my child dismisses the need to do anything but be at home!
Then last week the show was listed in the New Yorker, and it brought back all my worries about missing it. Still, I perservered and told myself that having seen Patti Smith about thirty times, and Television once before, was really quite enough and I would live if I missed it.
Last Thursday, I walked with my friend Joe to a gay bar at 52nd and Ninth. Of course, our walk took us right past Roseland and there on the marquee it was posted "Patti Smith/Television." I sighed, explained to Joe that I would have been attending that show if life was different, and resigned myself to the fact that I would not be attending.
As this probably sounds like I feel sorry for myself, I have to fess-up to something. I am not even remotely deprived of entertainment. I get to do many things, as well as enjoy time with my family!
I own two season tickets for the MetroStars and attend most of the matches throughout the season. I am very lucky! In fact, this particular night, the MetroStars were hosting DC United at the same time that Television would be taking the stage to sing "Venus" or "See No Evil" or some such gem. So, I had plans anyhow!
I get to see friends, host guests in my home, play online computer games, write a daily blog, go to work in Manhattan, have lunch with grown-ups, etc. I get to do plenty of stuff for entertainment. There is no reason for me to be considering and reconsidering this show at Roseland.
As I prepared for the trek to Giants Stadium, an instant message appeared on the PC from my friend Helen. She wanted to know what I was doing, and I invited her to attend the soccer match.
She then invited me to attend the Patti Smith show!
MSG Network would be repeating the match at midnight anyhow. And, since Americans basically ignore soccer, there was little chance I would accidentally stumble on the final score before watching the rebroadcast.
I changed out of my red & black Soccer-Match-At-The-Swamp clothes into black trousers a black shirt, black boots and a black way-too-expensive lightweight topcoat. I was now in my New York camouflage. Once leaving Brooklyn I would melt right into the scenery of Midtown Manhattan.
I arrived at Roseland in plenty of time. I found Helen flirting with some Bowie fan, we exchanged pleasantries then got inside and found my favorite spot along the railing at the back of the venue. Helen hates this spot, but she decided to hang with me. I am too old to push to the front, and my aged feet require that I have some thing to lean against throughout the event.
Television performed first and they were perfect. The sound mixing was horrible for the first half-hour, but improved with time and unlike an 'opening act' they performed a full show, which was nice. History will show that Television was a more musically influential band than The Patti Smith Group, but history will also show that Patti Smith is a dramatically more influential voice: poetically, muscially, politically, socially, and unlike Tom Verlaine, she is a ROCK STAR!
When she walked onstage, she looked like that young awkward poet that I first saw walk on a stage almost 30 years ago (and about thirty times since then). She is humble and self-deprecating, she is funny and serious, frumpy and glamorous. She is a little bit Anouk Aimee and a little bit Alice B. Toklas. She is the rock star with the biggest cock. She is Rimbaud the Poet and Dylan the Activist and Rundgren the Pop Producer. She is everything you would want for a wife and mother and more than one could expect from a heroine or a pin-up girl, a concubine or a nun. Goodie goodie gunbox!
"I ain't fucked much with the past," she recited, "but I fucked plenty with the future!" And the roller coaster started. The "Babelogue/Rock n Roll Nigger" medley is one of the most politically astute rock songs of the 1970s. Jimi Hendrix, Jackson Pollock, Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, I'm a nigger, you're a nigger. Everyone who is outside the norm, everyone who wants things to be different, everyone outside of society. That's us! No other white artist has used the N-word effectively. Only Patti Smith.
We got "Baghdad," and "Break It Up" (the only listenable homage to Jim Morrison recorded), and "Free Money," and "Birdland." Yup! She did "Birdland" and I was there! Sure, she needed the lyric sheet, but she did it!
I was entranced, as I am everytime I see her.
When I saw her at The Bottom Line after Radio Ethiopia was released, it was fun to watch her on the stage with the control button of a slide projector, changing the images that appeared as she sang. She was quite good at it, considering how new it seemed to her. Ever since, she has used lots of imagery to create her big rock show, and I hope she never stops. Nobody else can do it for me: politics and religion and spirituality and poetry and family and mysticism and hero-worship. She does it all.
When I heard "Land" on the radio (yes, on the radio) in 1975, it changed my life. Patti Smith has never failed to move me. No other rock star has ever touched me so deeply. This night, I kept expecting her to whisper into the microphone: "Johnny was in the hallway sipping a glass of tea . . . " She didn't, but she gave me more than I could really handle.
Thank you, Patti!
At the other end of the hallway the rhythm is generating.
Oh . . . And the MetroStars lost 1-0.