The legendary stage of New York rock club CBGB got its final workout last night (Oct. 15), courtesy of another legend, Patti Smith. Smith — who played her first show at CBGB in February 1975 and early on became synonymous with the East Village venue and the American punk movement that was birthed in and around it — gave a rousing, passionate performance to a packed-like-sardines crowd.
With her loyal band (Lenny Kaye on guitar, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums and bass and Tony Shanahan on keys, bass and guitar) providing a solid foundation, Smith paid fitting tribute to the club’s 33-year history with a varied and fast-moving two-and-a-half hour two-part set. It included takes on several songs by other punk artists the venue helped launch, including the Ramones, Blondie and Television.
Television guitarist Richard Lloyd made an appearance to perform his band’s “Marquee Moon” in a quiet duet with Smith and sat in on several other numbers with the full band. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea offered up his own services on a long list of high-energy entries, including an inspired “Free Money,” a vibrant “Birdland” and a raucous cover of the Who’s “My Generation.” Other highlights: a hard-charging “Gloria” that weaved in the “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!” refrain of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” a pitch-perfect take on the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” and Smith’s charmingly scattered storytelling, through which she shared special memories of CBGB and its patron saints.
Smith remained focused and upbeat throughout the majority of her performance, but became emotional at show’s end as she read a list of names of deceased figures who had played a prominent role in the club’s history — like Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Thunders and her own former bandmate Richard Sohl — and then shouted out a teary, emphatic “thank you” to CBs owner Hilly Kristal.
While Smith’s performance was the last the venue will host, CBGB officially closes its doors on Oct. 31, some 14 months after a dispute with its landlord, the Bowery Residents’ Committee, left the club without a new lease. A series of high-profile benefit shows plus vocal support from rock icons such as “Little” Steven Van Zandt and Elvis Costello failed to persuade the BRC to let CBGB remain in the space it has called home for 33 years.
Kristal, currently undergoing treatment for cancer, has indicated plans to relocate the club to Las Vegas.