August 24 was a lovely evening in New York City, and, wrapping up the free Roots of American Music festival at Damrosch Park, Patti Smith and her band were in typically great form.
Early on, she presented herself to us as a New York City neighbor, saying something like, "If you see me walking down the street and my shoelaces are untied, tell me. I am clumsy. If you see me going down the subway stairs and my shoelaces are untied, please tell me. I can be clumsy."
But she sure wasn't clumsy on stage. Rocking her way through her own songs--"People Have the Power," "Because the Night," and lots of others--and great covers including "Smells like Teen Spirit" and a version of "Are you Experienced" packed with improvised extras, she brought the audience to their feet and their arms into the air.
She urged us to vote (more than once, I think), asked us to remember those suffering elsewhere (not that we shouldn't enjoy our evening), and, at the end of the encore ("We've only got four minutes and we're going to pack in everything we can"), stopped while misspelling "Gloria," to say, "Fuck it, I can't spell--I should be in the Bush cabinet."
Afterwards, waiting for the bus on 9th Avenue, I heard a man jogging past the woman beside me say to her, "If you see me in the subway and my shoelaces are untied, tell me."
"You're not Patti," she answered with the ghost of a smile.