New York Press, November 12, 2010
“Punk rock poet laureate” Patti Smith packed Brooklyn’s Southpaw last night, along with openers Shilpa Ray, Outernational and Tamar Korn. The evening—which was a benefit for Fortnight Journal (and sponsored by BrooklyntheBorough and NYPress)—started with a short, two-song, a capella set from Tamar Korn. The jazz vocalist stunningly imitated a mute trumpet during her first song and, during the second (“Dream A Little Dream For Me”), she flawlessly played the part of a violin.
New York-based “future rock” group Outernational were next with an acoustic set. Compared to their electric live performances—like previous gigs opening for GBH and Anti-Flag—the acoustic set felt subdued and mature, but still no less energetic. The same songs, with their clear references to punk, reggae and world music, translate well to both arenas.
Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, a bluesy harmonium player-fronted group, floated through a set that was part chilled-out, part drive and power. One minute they would be slowly lilting through an indie folk ballad, the next they would push forward, with drums reminiscent of a Cure hit and a guttural scream that seemed entirely too powerful to be coming from the petite frontwoman.
Patti Smith acted as a responder for Fortnight Journal, where they pair millennial upstarts with older mentors. Her protégé, Zane Alan McWilliams, came out first and, after dealing with an uncooperative guitar strong, launched into a couple of his own songs, which showed clear homage to Bob Dylan and influence from southern life and folk rock. Smith joined him, opening with an anecdote about playing an entire set off-key because she doesn’t know how to tune her guitar, and the pair played one number together.
The rest of Smith’s band joined her for a poetic, passionate set. The folk-punk legend played a thorough roster of audience favorites, and the crowd responded to every word feverishly. She busted out “Because the Night” and the energy was palpable, then “People Have the Power,” which she said would be her last song. At the end she cried out “Use your voice” and left the stage, to come back and play “Pissing in the River” as an encore.
Age and a 35-year career haven’t slowed Smith down, she played with every bit of energy and power expected – fitting for this night, which was a proverbial passing of the torch to the younger generation of millennials that opened.