Patti Smith turned 68 two weeks ago, but her sold-out show at the Moore Theatre Monday had many moments of youthful rebellion. Over an 18-song set Smith danced, sang, swore and screamed.
She began with “Dancing Barefoot,” more smooth than fiery, but quickly shifted toward punk with “Redondo Beach.” She didn’t end until two hours later, when she was soaked through with sweat.
Ghosts — metaphorical and human — have long been Smith’s most consistent inspiration, and that held true Monday. “This is the Girl” was about Amy Winehouse; “Distant Fingers” was penned with a deceased boyfriend; while “25th Floor,” she said, was about a date with her deceased husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith.
Even the covers she chose hinted at melancholy. Smith almost always does Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” here, and it was beautiful, with a banjo in the arrangement. Better still was her slowed down “Beautiful Boy,” by John Lennon, dedicated to Seattle musician George Romansic.
Rock ’n’ roll has always offered eternal salvation for Smith, whose most popular album was titled “Easter.” From that 1978 record, she played her highest-charting hit “Because the Night.”
Smith spoke movingly before “Gandhi” about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But an attempt to connect a metaphor about the viaduct and the unemployed at a Pioneer Square mission didn’t work.
For all the ghosts present in Smith’s songs, much of her stage show was about the celebration of a life lived. After her anthem “People Have the Power,” she urged the crowd to use their voices against injustice and war.
She then held up a guitar, said it was the “true weapon” and called up the ghost of Jimi Hendrix.
“His spirit lies with you,” she said. “He lies underneath your soil … your soul.”
Ever since she returned to music in 1996, Smith has had a soft spot for Seattle, and Seattle for her. She ended this tremendous night of music with a simple statement instead of a song, a powerful endorsement of Seattle music history, past and future.
“All the great things that happened here,” Smith said, “continue to happen here.”
One of them happened Monday night at the Moore.