review of 3/26/96 concert, roxy, los angeles

      by cathy ross-burdin

Brief intro — the Roxy is a relatively tiny club in West Hollywood. I think the fire limit's about 400 people. Whatever the number, they were packed in Tuesday night for Patti's last show in L.A. Wall-to-wall people (forget about getting near the bar) of every age.

Show started slow, even mournful. Patti came out and confessed to being depressed. She read "To The Reader," the preface to Early Work, and got teary during "Farewell Reel."

Grabbing a moment to recoup, she hauled Bob Neuwirth up on stage for a number. The Austin-ish twang seemed to set spirits surging; from that point the show just built . . . each song/poem more intense than the one before. ultimately racing, raging toward a wild climax of "Not Fade Away" and a raucous encore of "Horses/Gloria" that had all 400 jammed-in souls moving in sweaty rhythm—all bobbing heads, flying hair, and thrusting arms. Patti was a dervish—twirling, crawling, careening about the tiny stage, climbing up the speakers. Lenny shimmying and swaying—breaking guitar strings, breaking his guitar strap. Verlaine furiously rocking in his chair, hunched over his guitar.

A few reviews I've read have dubbed this West Coast swing a tribute to survival. If so, then this show seemed the final exorcism of grief. The band seemed more at ease, relaxed and enjoying themselves, than they had Saturday night at the Wiltern. The band members joked with each other, with those watching. Even Verlaine spoke to the audience. Patti caressed the crowd with her charm, bantering with the audience. She spoke lovingly about her father. She joked about the Oscars, about playing in Hollywood, about gray hair, needing glasses, and aging she mocked her status as a "legend," quite clearing jumping off of and kicking away the pedestal. She admonished the audience to help the homeless; to care about the AIDS epidemic. During "Not Fade Away," she spilled a rush of words about Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence and treating everyone as equals.

She read from Rimbaud.

She forgot to take off her shoes till part way through "Dancing Barefoot," and then used the gesture as a excuse to let the band noodle around for a bit (Verlaine weaving a bit of Manzarek-organ-"light my fire"-inspired psychedelia).

She used the socks to make sock puppets.

She lead the audience in choruses of squeals during Tony's sly rendition of an Elvis tune.

She laughed about how Jackson, despite inheriting "great rock and roll genes," still liked Van Halen.

There were moments when she hit the exact epicenter, an earth-shaking collision of Patti the '70s punk priestess/diva and Patti the poet/mom/mature artist.

Fred's spirit pervaded much of the night. Besides "Farewell Reel" and "Ravens," both written for him, she sang "People Have the Power" and "Gone Again," (both by him) and gave a brief but passionate speech about remembering Fred and the '5.

As for the exact set list—sorry, I was so caught up in the moment, I'm not sure of the order—but I know that in addition to the previously mentioned tunes, the band played "Redondo Beach" (which to my ears, doesn't seem to be working—it sounded flat Saturday night and at this show), "Pale Blue Eyes," "About A Boy," "Southern Cross," "Wild Leaves," "Wicked Messenger," "Ghost Dance," "Smoke On The Water," "In Heaven Blue," and [Lenny's moment to shine] "Love of the Common People" (which did not drag down the pace of this rather loose set, but came off sort as a sort of a playful, garage-band rendition—appropriate for Lenny's rock historian roots).

Poems included "Written by a Lake," "Wave," the obligatory "Piss Factory," and "Y."

At the end, Patti thanked the crowd for transforming her mood into one of joy.

I think the 2 women who filed out of the show behind me, summed it up best:

woman 1:  " this show was better than when I saw her at CBGB's in '76."
woman 2:  "well, of course. she's had 20 years to grow."

Copyright © Cathy Ross-Burdin 1996

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