Wolfe sets the tone of the night as one dedicated to honesty, freedom and folksy rock. The multi-instrumentalist weaves between acoustic guitar, autoharp and lap dulcimer, singing songs about Greek Odyssey’s and gay Yorkshire farmers. Wolf’s stage presence is one of unpretentious charm and his lyrical storytelling and unwavering, strong voice make him a joy to watch. His openness concerning the loss of his mother and difficulty returning to performing creates a sense of intimacy with the audience that is continued throughout the night. The setting of the Kelvingrove bandstand, with its amphitheatre stone benches, provokes an open dialogue between the audience and performer — when someone shouts out they are heard and most often responded to. This conscientious exchange breaks down the barriers of traditional gigs, making it all the more magical.
Patti Smith walks on stage with her son Jackson to open the headline act of the show with an acoustic song dedicated to Jerry Garcia. This understated opening reflects her utter lack of pomp or ceremony. Patti is here to perform, to bring music and connection to the people and her sincerity is startling and disarming. The song is shaky at times, with both Jackson and Patti breaking off to laugh and change chords, but this only adds to the fact that this experience will not be a choreographed recital of greatest hits but a contemplative and clever creation of music.
The Jerry Garcia tribute is followed by Patti and Jackson being joined on stage by her band, Tony Shanahan on guitar and Seb Rochford on drums. They launch into an energetic and skilful cover of Hendrix‘s “Are You Experienced?”, delivering the song with punky powerful perfection, transfixing without an ounce of ego. Patti’s voice is stunning, retaining and exceeding the purity and raw power of the original recordings, never once wavering.
Between songs Patti lopes to the front of the stage and looks up at a circling seagull. “I love your goals,” she comments to a confused audience. “Not, like, human goals, but birds, y’know?” she drawls, and a ripple of amusement spans the tightly packed crowd as they decipher her accent and realise she is, in fact, saying “gulls”. “The pitch they reach,.. what do you feed them?”, a shattered chorus of “chips” and laughter is directed at the singer. This is one of many moments where all barriers between performer and audience seem to be broken down and the result is a banter-filled and bizarre back and forth which is both amusing and touching.
Smith’s opening dialogue to each song is laced with references, from Herman Melville to Rutger Hauer and Andrei Tarkovsky, and her passion and integrity never cease to amaze. The band’s energy is boundless as they roll from song to song, with Ghost Dance resulting in the entire audience shaking out spirits from their hands, and Beds are Burning raising the spirits, and arms, of everyone present. Smith also performs spoken word and poetry pieces, the purity of her voice and magnetism of her words having an enrapturing and empowering effect. Dancing Barefoot, Because the Night and Gloria are performed spectacularly, conjuring mystical spiritualism laced with punk spirit and as Smith stomps around the stage with unselfconscious gracelessness the potency of her charm and talent are undeniable.
Smith ends the concert with People Have The Power, and her last words are “use your voice”. In times of political upheaval and uncertainty, Patti Smith’s music, and her shouted declarations of “we are free” take on a forceful and much-needed optimism and activism. Smith asks us to use our voices, and tonight she has used hers to transform the small stage and stone benches of Kelvingrove Bandstand into a celebration of freedom and art with a mesmerising blend of poetry, punk and folk.