Perhaps it’s ironic that the incubator for the slam and fury of punk rock — and everything rock & wild that came after — was that most intimate and subdued of public-performance settings, the poetry recital. In the vacuum between the New York Dolls and the Ramones, writer Patti Smith and guitarist Lenny Kaye invented their own brave new underground in Manhattan in the early ’70s, starting with the word and spiraling outward with Kaye’s mesmerizing chain of chords. (And perhaps it’s not so ironic that both were also rock critics — and historians; Kaye’s ’60s garage-rock compilation Nuggets also launched a gazillion punk bands by itself.) Smith invoked Houdini and Baudelaire as if they were rock stars, and elevated fan-mail groupie rhapsodizing into fine art with her fever-wracked elegies to Jim Morrison and Brian Jones.
To celebrate the 30th-anniversary CD reissue of Smith’s 1975 debut album, Horses (which comes with a bonus CD of a 2005 London concert performance with guests Tom Verlaine and the Chili Peppers’ Flea), Kaye and Smith are bringing it all back home by breaking it all back down to the basic elements: the hush of poetry and the vibration of guitar strings. They’ll doubtless expand on the expansions of their rock-nugget covers “Gloria” (Them) and “Land of 1000 Dances” (Wilson Pickett) — which Smith transformed into the rambling soundtracks to her own private French New Wave films, stacking free associations into a mighty pyre, then torching it all and worshipping the intricate laciness of its smoke. The pair’s original songs were (and are) no less stunning and revelatory, from the romantic desperation of “Free Money” and the eternally piercing ache of “Break It Up” to the lilting vacation-day sunny pop-reggae of “Redondo Beach.” More than just nostalgia, tonight’s sacred ritualization of Horses is a spark, a reminder of all the possibilities out there, of the thousands of dances still to be danced.
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