For years, Patti Smith has celebrated her birthday by playing an intimate gig with friends in New York. Thankfully, the punk rock pioneer is carrying on the tradition this year — albeit in the form of a livestream.
On December 30th, Smith will perform with her band for the first time in 2020. Their show will be streamed by Veeps, which Smith recently used to broadcast a solo set of hers on Black Friday.
“I just thought it would be nice to uphold that tradition in a certain way because it’s always a joyful moment,” the soon-to-be 74-year-old said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I love birthdays because we’re born and life is the greatest thing we have, I just thought it would be a nice thing to share with everybody.”
Smith sees the one-off show as something of a makeup for the world tour she had cut short in March by the pandemic. “I was very unprepared for the pandemic; my blood was set for motion,” Smith told Rolling Stone. “I was set for public life and then had to go into a more solitary state.”
Although she was ready to rock throughout 2020, she found herself adapting to the lockdown lifestyle and has continued to write voraciously. “I like to write when I’m in motion. I’m a real traveler. I rarely stay in one place very long. So to be in one place for eight months at a time is something I haven’t done really since my children have grown. And so my world has become even more internalized than usual.”
For her birthday livestream, Smith simply wants to put on a good show within the constraints she has to work with. There will be no elaborate stage setup or special gimmicks: just her and her band, which includes her son Jackson on guitar, playing some songs with her time-tested punk rock simplicity.
“We’re not going to try and make an approximation of a concert,” Smith said. “I just want to do a good job. It’s really that simple. Doing it with the band, we have half a century of camaraderie. We’re all people who care about each other. I’m not going into a stream thinking about the absence of the people; I would go into a stream thinking that we’re all with each other.”
She continued, “It’s not like I’m like a rock star and they’re like fans. We’re all people looking to have a transcendent experience to feel good, hopeful and energized. I know that’s somewhat of a challenge, but we’ll certainly do it the best we can. When people have to pay, whether that’s $2 or $10, you have a job to give whatever you have to give to the people giving you their time and resources.”
The livestream airs December 30th at 9:00 p.m. ET. Tickets are available now.
Back in November, Smith showed her support for democracy by busking “People Have The Power” for people waiting in line to vote on the streets of NYC. In September, Smith released the third installment of a trilogy of collaborative records with the Soundwalk Collective.