Patti Smith was still as giddy as a little girl last night, for the second of her three New Year’s shows at The Bowery Ballroom. She had reason to be happy — it was her 63rd birthday, or “burfday,” as she so charmingly says it.
But, unlike the first night, Patti brought a bit more snarl and a lot more focus to the show. (She mentioned that The New York Times said she did some “bad things” on the first night. Check out that review, by Ben Ratliff, here.) The only slight disappointment last night was that the set list largely repeated the first night’s set. It was a spirited evening, though — good enough to make me regret my decision to skip tonight’s show to avoide the craziness of a Manhattan New Year’s Eve.
The evening had a few surprises. For me, the best came when James Mastro of Hoboken’s The Bongos, resplendent in a red hat, materialized onstage to assist on a cover of Neil Young’s Powderfinger. Last night’s version was much stronger than the opening night’s tepid effort, and Mastro’s professional attitude, great guitar work and solid vocals made a huge difference. (It would have been helpful if somebody had bothered to introduce James when he came onstage. While plenty of people in the audience recognized the local hero, his name wasn’t announced from stage until after he was done playing.)
Patti repeated a couple of key covers from the night before, including a passable version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, for which she donned not one but two white gloves, saying she needed two to pull it off. (She tossed the gloves into the crowd during the song.) Younger members of crowd seemed quite taken with Patti’s version. And, as she did the first night, Patti wrapped the show with the O’Jays’ Love Train.
Patti’s daughter, Jesse, was the opening act again. But this time, there was some context for her noodling piano, accompanied by mallet percussion from Michael Campbell (who looks very much like a young Glen Campbell): One of their tunes was written for a movie soundtrack. It all made so much more sense because they decided to play it with the film something they forgot to do on the first night. Their playing was a bit more self-assured, but still barely rose above amateurish experimentation. Mom’s longtime guitarist, Lenny Kaye, joined them for a song, raising the level of musicianship exponentially in the process.