Patti Smith and Philip Glass The Poet Speaks Edinburgh Festival Aug 13th 2013

Patti Smith and Philip Glass Edinburgh Festival Aug 13th 2013
pattiprog Laura, David, Shona and I spent a day at the Edinburgh festival yesterday. We travelled up primarily to see Patti Smith perform with Philip Glass in “The Poet Speaks”, a tribute to Allen Ginsberg. The main concert was at the Playhouse Theatre last night, however we were lucky enough to attend a small intimate “conversations with….” session with Patti and Philip yesterday lunchtime. We also took in a stand up show, and had a great, but very long day.
From the festival website: “Two of the pillars of contemporary music come together for an intimate evening of poetry, music and song in tribute to their friend, the great Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg. Punk poet and provocateur Patti Smith performs both her own and Ginsberg’s poetry, with accompaniment and solo pieces for piano from founding father of minimalism Philip Glass. Renowned as one of the originators of the Beat movement, Ginsberg’s raw, visceral poems, including Howl, Kaddish and Wichita Vortex Sutra, range from forceful fury to profound spirituality.” pattiti1 Our day started early, leaving shortly after 8am and driving up the A1 to Edinburgh, arriving shortly after 11am. We drove straight up the Royal Mile, and easily found The Hub, which is the central point for the International Festival and was also the venue for the first session that we were attending. We entered the main hall of The Hub, and took a seat at the front just in front of the stage. The red sofa in front of us was soon occupied by Patti Smith, Philip Glass and the Reverend Richard Coles (ex Communard, musician, broadcaster and priest). Richard was charged with questioning Patti and Philip who talked freely and with affection of their old friend Alan Ginsberg. It was fascinating to hear of the background to their relationship with Ginsberg, and how they came to start to perform his poetry. Patti revealed that it was Ginsberg who persuaded her to return to performing after the loss of her husband, and she also shared how she listens to Philip’s music while she writes. The pair took some questions from the audience before leaving to prepare for the evening’s performance. pattitix2
We spent the afternoon exploring some of the Fringe activities around Pleasance, and took in one stand-up act. The evening performance was at the Playhouse theatre at 8.30pm. Playhouse was packed for the event, which mixed Smith reading her own poetry, with that of Alan’s and Glass seated at a grand piano accompanied her. A collage of images, paintings and photographs from Ginsberg’s collection provided a backdrop to the performance. This was very different to the rock performance format which I am used to, but it was a very welcome change for me. I had a sense that I was witnessing a very special event. Patti started off with one of Ginsberg’s poems and then read some of her own writing; each performed with great spirit and passion. The pair then each performed their own short set. Patti read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Land of Nod”, which she explained was her childhood favourite, and sang, along with her regular guitarist Tony Shanahan, “Dancing Barefoot”, old favourite “Pissing in a River”, and a great version of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. Glass then held the crowd spellbound with three short piano pieces. The pair then closed the evening with some further readings. The crowd called them back for an encore of “People Have the Power”, which to be honest was ok, but didn’t quite fit with the evening, Glass having some obvious difficulty in making the switch to the boogie oriented bar piano which was required. A truly great and inspirational evening. We left the theatre around 10.10pm and headed back down the A1, arriving home around 1am.

One response to this post.

  1. sounds like fun night out. I saw Patti Smith touring with — of all people — Ralph Nader shortly after 9/11, which was just a year after I left New York. Patti was the first New Yorker I had seen post-9/11, and provided a catharsis I desperately needed.


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