Music review: The Poet Speaks
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: The Poet Speaks, with Philip Glass and Patti Smith, at The Playhouse, reviewed by Susan Nickall
‘Channelling Allen’ is how Patti Smith described her collaboration with minimalist composer Philip Glass to pay homage to their mutual friend, the hugely talented Allen Ginsberg, one of the Beat Generation poets.
But although striking images of Ginsberg looked down on proceedings, this was by and large the Phil and Patti Show – her poems to his music, quite a few of her songs, solo piano excerpts from Glass’s Metamorphoses and Etude – plus going off-piste to deliver extracts from her favourite book of poems, Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy for the royal baby, Prince George.
With her deep pebbly voice, Smith is an seductive and engaging storyteller and performer.
Her finely honed songs, beautifully accompanied by Tony Shanahan on guitar, piano and vocals, fared better than her often rambling, but heartfelt poems. However, it was reading Ginsberg’s poems against a backdrop of Glass’s hypnotic music that Smith was at her best.
Like an evangelist she proclaimed the anti-war message in Wichita Vortex Sutra, chanted Holy, Holy, Holy from his most famous poem Howl and conjured a flesh and blood image of Ginsberg’s aunt in his incredibly moving and acutely observed To Aunt Rose.
Originally published in The Scotsman