Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith read from her new memoir, Just Kids, on Monday, Jan. 25 at Benaroya Hall. You can read my interview with Smith


Last Night: Patti Smith Reads, Sings, and Pines for Russell Crowe at Benaroya Hall

Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith read from her new memoir, Just Kids, on Monday, Jan. 25 at Benaroya Hall. You can read my interview with Smith over here.
The high priestess of punk rock, Patti Smith, started he evening at Benaroya Hall, Monday, mingling with champagne-sipping patrons backstage, signing their copies of her new memoir, Just Kids, and posing for pictures. Had the Seattle Arts & Lectures followed the lead of the memoir -- about her life and relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe -- they would have served half-eaten hot dogs with sauerkraut, and couples attending the should would be allowed to send half of their party into the reading and performance, charged with explaining the show to their significant others the way Smith and the photographer Mapplethorpe used to dine on Coney Island and experienced art galleries in 1970s New York City.

Smith was charming and perfectly comfortable shuffling through the backstage crowd, dressed in leather boots, a tux shirt, and a stocking cap. If she allowed herself to acknowledge any bit of absurdity of high-paying customers getting their punk fix for $60 a pop in the most elegant room in town, she didn't show it. At 63, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has long grown accustomed to being celebrated outside of the CBGBs of the world.

After an introduction from former Rocket editor/publisher Charles Cross, Smith opened her reading the same way she opened her 1975 debut album, Horses: "Jesus died for somebody's sins," delivering the line from her poem, "Oath," with all the vigor of a 20something with nothing to lose, "but not mine." For the next 30 minutes, she read from Just Kids and brought the same kind of grit and intensity to her prose as she does in her music.

The performance brought a clarified meaning to her words. While some of her book can be smug, and rife with the idealism of a starving artist, Smith acknowledged as much in her performance, holding for laughs, and conceding the occasional wink and nod.

After answering questions about writers block and musical collaboration from the audience, Smith picked up her acoustic guitar for a couple numbers, explaining that her late husband, Fred "Sonic Smith of the MC5, taught her the few chords she knows today. She played "Grateful," a song she wrote after the death of Smith and The Dead's Jerry Garcia, whom she said appeared to her in a vision, and gave her the song. She told the audience she didn't have the guitar chops to play the final song of the evening, so she proceeded to sing "Because the Night" a cappella, encouraging the room to sing the chorus along with her, as many of them did.

As the song came to a close and the room began to thunder with applause, Smith cocked her head to the right and shot a loogie onto the hardwood stage.

On the way out to the lobby, I overhead a young man say: "Now I'm less worried about being 60."

A few other random notes from the evening:

Quote: "I was not gifted, but I was imaginative."

Question from the audience, read by Charles Cross (paraphrased): You've collaborated with many artists throughout your career. Who else would you like to collaborate with?

Smith's Answer: Russell Crowe

Cross: As a musician or as an actor?

Smith: As a girl.

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