When Patti Smith performed at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden in 2016 where Bob Dylan was presented the award in absentia, she was so nervous that she flubbed the lyrics to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” an experience she called “humiliating” when she wrote about it in The New Yorker.
So on Monday night at The Met Philadelphia, where Smith and her band performed a hometown show in the city where she attended first through third grades and “I learned all my moves,” she took no chances.
When Smith stepped up to the mic to begin the encore that would bring her electric 1 hour 45 minute show to a close, the 72-year-old rock poet came prepared with reading glasses and lyrics, which she pages through as she sang the verses solo and then brought the audience in on the stately, apocalyptic folk songs’s chorus.
“Hard Rain” was but one highlight in a thrilling evening in which Smith called the 110-year-old opera house “awesome,” cracked jokes about Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas, declared that the night night belongs “to Philadelphia” in “Because the Night,” was joined by her daughter Jesse Paris Smith on piano and son Jackson Smith on guitar, and mocked a fan complaining about not being allowed to dance by security guards by comparing their plight to impoverished Mexican families being denied admission to the U.S.
She covered Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning” and Jim Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?,” ceded the stage to her band members Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan for covers of The Avengers’ “American in Me,” Rolling Stones’ “I’m Free” and Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and expansively talked about her love for Philadelphia and “all of its stuff,” from its cobblestone streets to the old Airport Drive-In movie theater to Independence Hall. About her childhood, she said, “I remember every wildflower and every firefly and every Philadelphia sky.”
Watch a clip from “Hard Rain” below. Smith returns to town on May 30 for a sold-out performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that’s part of the Whitman at 200 celebration.