Everyone really looked healthy and rested. Patti in particular looked tan, energetic, trim and handsomely dressed. I had spent some time fretting about what she and the band would do on a sunny midafternoon in front of City Hall, in front of an audience potentially more of the "Just show me" than the "Just show up" variety. I kinda figured numbers like "About a Boy" would be out (and I was surprised the set was nonetheless as adventurous as it was), but I also wondered, after 5 shows in the past year, if this crew would look like the walking dead in the light of day.
Well, no worries there. Patti was doing a mod look: bright (Bright!) vintage hipster red, white, and black-striped straight-leg pants, a plain white T-shirt, and a relatively new black jacket. A flattering ensemble - nothing ripped, nothing hanging on by a thread. And obviously it afforded her easy movement, as she dismounted the stage and went back up unassisted several times before it was all over.
With only one acoustic number ("Southern Cross") the set was high-energy, LOUD, and, when you stop to think about it, seemed conscious of the generic audience by really having a lot of familiar/friendly "bar-band" numbers (or variations thereof): "Gloria", "Not Fade Away", "Smoke on the Water", "I'm So Lonesome", "Who Do You Love?", and (dare I say it?) "Because the Night".
(But let's restate the obvious for good measure: how many street-fair bands do "Howl" over "Radio Ethiopia"? Not many, I bet. Although, it was widely recognized - so I guess it's a bar-band favorite of another variety, but who cares? It was great. Maybe PS&Co. can turn major poets into cover band staples.)
I got the impression that the segue from "NFA" to "Gloria" was a last-minute improvisation, and it was very special. In particular, I found the babel about homesteaders making shapes and shadows in the window frames of abandoned buildings, looking for "one word," VERY evocative, and it was an image that is still with me. Also with me, for better or worse, is her "conservative" (for lack of a better word) zeal: the evils of alcohol came up again, and at one point she encouraged one and all to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Hokay.
But the show was transcendant. A shaky start, but it proved that they can cut it and then some under unusual circumstances. They managed some rather dramatic material in the May afternoon sunshine, and hopefully left lots of other folks walking away on air like I was.
When so much is out of your control, as it is in these situations, to come through with flying colors shows something pretty special.
(And damn! they make it look so easy.)
Copyright © Anthony J. Rzepela 1997