Patti Smith’s Songs of Innocence

Saturday night, I treated Gill to a ticket for Songs of Innocence, part of Patti Smith’s Meltdown festival at the South Bank Centre.

Beforehand, we met up with Jan and Ed, Suz and Sarah in the Royal Festival Hall bar. Gill and I arrived first, and immediately bought a bottle of cold Rosé We plonked ourselves down and started drinking it. Then grabbed some ice cubes to put in our wine – it was an extremely hot and humid day (around 32°C). The others arrived, we chatted, headed off for something to eat, realised we didn’t have much time and got crêpes instead of the steak I really wanted. Then we had to part – it all seemed to happen too fast, I thought two-and-a-half hours together would be plenty of time for a good natter, but it felt more like two-and-a-half minutes.

Then we went on to the gig. It started off with a reading of a William Blake poem, then Patti came on and performed one of my favourite tracks by her, Birdland. For once I didn’t cry when she sang it, but I did feel emotionally sandblasted.

A whole host of musicians followed. Beth Orton completely blew me away, as did Eliza Carthy: incredible voices. Sinead O’Connor was seriously good, but banged on about God a bit much for my liking. Mariannne Faithful was very powerful but, blimey, that corset must hurt! Billy Bragg came on and did a Woody Guthrie song about bed-wetting. Kristin Hersh was a bit affectedly whiny, and did too many songs. Tori Amos was too needy and did far too many songs, though she made some nice little breathing noises & stuff close up to the microphone. Yoko Ono came on and screamed a little. The lead singer from James came on, bitched about Yoko Ono a bit, sang a crap song which sounded like some Irish boy band ballad, then sang Sit Down which was rather good, especially the section of the audience just along from me who were singing harmonies to the chorus, in baritone! Several unidentified women came on and read William Blake poems. And I’m sure there were others who I’ve forgotten. We left just before the end, because Gill & I both had headaches (too much Rosé, drunk too fast, too much hot weather and sweating in a big concert hall) and I was coming down with a cold (which has since got worse). We got to Waterloo and the train was waiting there for us, just about to depart.

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