Patti Smith is, in a way, like the traveling medicine men who once hawked their tonics to the gullible citizenry. Snake oil is no longer in demand, but she has found a new product that is sometimes just as greasy-rock 'n' roll.

Appearing before the local rock populace last night at the Warner Theater, the Patti Smith Group featured music that was all slicked up for commercial consumption but lacked any redemming artistic value. Since her show here last year, she has polished her material to the point that it is now presentable-the breaks were sharp, the melodies were recognizable and her band seemed to be reasonably in control of their instruments.

The cosmetics notwithstanding, Simth and her group are, simply, not very talented. The musicians are incapable of playing anything more than basic riffs and the sound of Patti's voice is closer to that of a sideshow barker than a minimally trained rock singer.

All of this doesn't seem to concern Smith. She has the heart of a pure huckster. The show was a masterpiece of hard sell, with its outlandish stage antics, sloppy costumes and the piece de resistance, the raising of a gigantic American flag at the rear of the stage while Smith playfully recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The crowd loved it.