Patti Smith’s Horses 40th anniversary tour didn’t come to us, so in true Aussie style ‘we’ took things into our own hands and brought Horses to the Melbourne Town Hall sans Smith. That’s not to say this performance was without exceptional talent, because when you get the likes of Adalita, Jen Cloher, Courtney Barnett and Gareth Liddiard together you’ve got some serious musical clout happening.
It was Jen Cloher who had the nerve to throw the idea of performing this iconic and musically complex album out to her mates, each of whom would have felt challenged by the task, but thankfully brave enough to risk it. The risk definitely paid dividends in the most impressive of ways.
We can imagine Smith hanging out in the smoky nightclubs of New York with the avant-garde and downright strange, being inspired by cutting edge music and the verbose beat poets. We can imagine her studying Rimbaud, Blake and other wordsmiths whose expressions painted vivid images, sometimes too dark and complex for Mr and Mrs Average.
Smith didn’t write Horses for the average Joe. It was surprising then that many teens and children populated the matinee show. It could have been that they were fans of The Drones’ Liddiard or the darlings of the hipster set, Cloher and Barnett, or searing rock goddess Adalita rather than fans of the very complex Patti Smith. No matter the attraction, this show was surely something special with each performer showing true professionalism and commitment to their craft and this fine album.
Adalita began with her seductively laden rendition of ‘Gloria’. Barnett followed with ‘Rodondo Beach’, which was one of the songs inspired by events in Smith’s family. Liddiard performed an admirable interpretation of ‘Birdland’ and Cloher saved one of the most difficult tracks for herself – ‘Land’, which begins with ‘Horses’ and then wends its way through two other, equally complex parts.
All performers drew together for Pete Townshend’s staple ‘My Generation’ and too soon it was over. We left reeling from the realisation that Adalita, Cloher, Liddiard and Barnett had pulled off a coup, and many were enlightened as to why Horses is charged by many to have changed their direction and fortune.