Patti Smith helped bring New York punk to the masses in the 1970s. As a woman, she refused to compromise her style or her androgynous look. Her influence and that of her album, Horses was immense. Over the years, she has stuck to her own sound and path, and her combination of music and poetry has remained vibrant and strong. On Live at Montreux 2005, Smith was captured at her very best, in her first live concert DVD.
The look and sound of this DVD are professional and crisp. The cameras are employed with sensitivity, not jumping from performer to performer, but lingering on each one, showcasing Smith’s hands and face as she sings or those of her band members. The sound options include Dolby 5.1 and DTS and everything sounds as clear as if you were right there watching the show in 2005.
Smith and her band keep their physical performance understated, but Smith’s every motion, especially her gestures, are exquisitely suited to her songs. She is accompanied by her original band members Lenny Kaye on guitar and vocals and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, along with Tom Verlaine of the band Television on guitar and Smith’s longtime bandmate Tony Shanahan on bass and vocals.
Like any artist who performs successfully for decades, Smith is willing to improvise and adapt, not always doing a song the same way. On this DVD, Smith seems more mature and thoughtful on songs such as “People Got the Power” and “Seven Ways of Going.” Smith’s clarinet on the latter song is mesmerizing, and perfectly suited to Montreux. Yet she can still create wild, chaotic rock on songs like “Because the Night” (co-written by Bruce Springsteen) and “25th Floor.” She is never smooth, but her very unpolished manner makes her music more powerful.
There is also a strong version of “Like a Rolling Stone,” which can stand with Dylan’s own version. The anger and sneer Smith was famous for early in her career is still evident as Smith sings Dylan’s words, and on the other rockers as well.
This DVD allows those people who have not had the opportunity to see and hear Smith live the chance to experience one of the most unique entertainers in American rock music. It should please her longtime fans and gain her a whole new fan base as well.