Strange Messenger

Patti Smith’s music has been with me since my teens, when I also dutifully consumed Camus and Rimbaud in the classic moody-teen-girl search for meaning.

Until Saturday, I’d never seen Smith perform. I knew her through her records, particularly her visceral 1975 protopunk debut, “Horses.”

Late into her set at Ram’s Head Live, she started into “Land,” from “Horses,” with its galloping verses about lust and death amid its “horses, horses, horses” refrain. The band segued into “Gloria,” the first song on that debut record, the first sounds the world heard from Smith — now 65 — all those years ago.

The vibe in the place was rock ’n’ roll gone to church. The crowd was a mix of old and young fans, but everyone there had an invisible, personal connection to these songs. Eyes were closed, faces turned up, hands in the air. Couples clung to each other. A girl to my right Watusied for her soul.

People bag on “Dinosaurs of Rock” tours for stupid reasons. Age has nothing to do with relevance or immediacy. I was hearing the mysterious truth of Patti Smith from her own lungs instead of my headphones.

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