Patti Smith played a fantastic concert at Hamer Hall on Saturday 11 October. I was expecting mostly songs from her recent covers album Twelve, but she only did a few of those. Most of the setlist featured her best known songs played with vigour and much relevance to current events. The best songs for me were ‘Are you experienced’ (Hendrix), ‘Dancin’ Barefoot’ and ‘Horses’. I was disappointed not to hear her version of ‘Gimme shelter’ (The Rolling Stones). There are some excellent gig photos here and a review in the Australian newspaper.
All of the songs were great, and I also loved what she had to say in between songs. She described writing ‘Grateful’ with Jerry Garcia when she started the song but broke down and had to restart, commenting that he did not give her guitar lessons in return. She also spoke about the financial crisis and the tragedy in the US where a man killed his family then himself because he had lost his job and was in financial difficulties related to the financial crisis. She told us that we are more than money and that life is about creativity, not economics.
Hamer Hall is a sedate and somber place that is a strange venue for rock music. Audience members feel intimidated into conforming to the staid behaviour of establishment values, not the freewheeling anti-establishment values of rock n roll. Most people sat through most of the show and the few people that got up to dance were moved out of isles by the ushers and made to stand or dance at the back.
By the end of the main part of the concert, which finished with ‘Horses’, Smith had urged people to stop sitting, to get up and move and the crowd responded enthusiastically, breaking the stupid rules the ushers could no longer enforce. We stayed standing until after the encore performance of ‘Rock n roll nigger’ finished the show.
Like the Tori Amos concerts last year, the ushers at Hamer Hall were also rigidly enforcing the ‘no photography’ rule until so many people disobeyed that they could not keep up. Why does this rule exist? Is it because the performers find it annoying and demand it? Compared to the power of the stage lights, I doubt the tiny flash of a consumer camera could be a problem for them.
Or is it simply another antiquated rule of bourgeois polite society that establishment venues maintain without considering whether it is valid or relevant? I suspect the latter, as did Smith in encouraging people to behave like they were at a rock concert. Bourgeois rules are made to be broken.