atti Smith at City Winery

Reopening the City, yay!

There comes a certain point in life when the knees ache on a once-easy walk that the biggest wish is for nothing more than for things to be restored to the way they were. So it was with a mixture of pleasure and relief to hear Patti Smith playing in person at the newly renovated City Winery flagship site on Pier 57 to a reduced but very appreciative audience. Sometimes people and society need not be defined by growth and progress so much as by capturing and reclaiming elements that make lives warm and worthwhile.

As City Winery’s founder Michael Dorf introduced her he made reference to both how pleased he was to finally be again hosting such event but also that the patrons at the widely space tables shouldn’t get too used to their elbow room as soon he hoped they would be packed together in a club like atmosphere that created one of the best intimate listening rooms in the city. As Dorf looked over the room one could sense that the empty spaces between the tables were as prominent to his impresario’s eye as the filled tables themselves.

It was billed as an acoustic set but the electrically amped guitars and microphone made familiar the resounding sounds of Ms. Smith’s voice. As she has aged her voice has become even more extraordinary, with nuances of depth and range that convey the meanings of her ballads and the passions of her anthems. One was reminded of how Frank Sinatra was known so well for his phrasing, and Ms. Smith is now his equal.

There are not too many artists who can weave Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine into their sets but Ms. Smith did so seamlessly, as befits the woman known as the punk rock poet laureate. Her son was playing guitar and she was occasionally joined by her daughter on piano. This was a New York family affair and seemed as deeply appreciated by the artists as the audience. She mentioned that this trio had played to an audience of 67,000 people in Spain, and yet the 100 in front of her seemed if anything more satisfying.

Diners could be seen through the glass wall on the Hudson River facing wall of the main performance space eating outside. Walking through the venue, people were also tucked into other nooks and crannies, creating the sense of filling whatever space they could with this new found freedom, no longer taken for granted.

And when she ended the set with her rousing version of The People Have the Power one felt that yes, the people’s power had been diminished but was returning.

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Robert M. Herzog

Robert M. Herzog

Published author exploring they dynamics of America, in Views from the Side Mirror: Essaying America, and novel, A World Between, see my writing at