Patti Smith's Meltdown: Songs of Experience

From the announcement of Patti Smith’s meltdown line-up this always seemed like one of the clear highlights. Jeff Beck, Flea, Tom Verlaine, John Frusciante and others joining Patti Smith for an evening of music celebrating Jimi Hendrix. John Frusciante does Hendrix? That sounds awesome, dude! Things started to go wrong shortly after that when Frusciante announced that he was not going to be able to make it, due to recording work on the new RHCP album.

The gig kicked off with Patti Smith and her band doing Are You Experienced? A pretty good start, but surely it would get better as more stars came on stage…. but then Patti Smith left the stage and the next act came on. Surely the logical format for an evening like this was Patti Singing with an ever changing line up of superstar backing band?!… but no, each act came on, did one or two songs and then left. There were some collaborations, like Robyn Hitchcock and Johnny Marr doing May This Be Love, but generally it was a stilted, atmosphere-free evening while people trudged on and off stage and roadies wired up new equipment.

No one really came close to hitting the high expectations: Squarepusher started OK, before twiddling and feedbacking his way into his usual freak-out-jazz-solo. Flea was a highpoint, with looping pedals repeating his parts while he built up to a trumpet final, and Jeff Beck was pretty good at matching Hendrix’s skill…. but essentially it was all a bit like watching a busker do a cover of Purple Haze by playing it on a washboard. The closest to getting the freak-out vibe of Hendrix’s playing were Finnish duo Kimmo Pohjonen and drummer Sami Kuoppamaki, who rocked out their accordian/drumkit tracks in true freak out style.

Things did end up in a kind-of jam finale, with Patti Smith back on stage, with Jeff Beck, Flea and Tom Verlaine… but Patti’s emotional recital was undermined by the fact she was reading the lyrics, and guitar-doofus Verlaine was busy tuning up as usual.