“You, me, all of us have to be activists right now,” Patti Smith shared to a full crowd at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel on Sunday night. When a performer like Talib Kweli opens for Patti Smith, it’s going to be an epic night of diverse performances. And when each performer was on stage to close the night with Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power,” the theme of togetherness and making an impact was truly in the air.
This evening was a combination of presentations, call to actions and powerful musical performances. Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk introduced some of the most legendary musicians to the stage, including Patti Smith. He shared a heartwarming story about a skater, Clive Dixon, who was attempting a particularly challenging rail trick when he took out a guitar pick Patti Smith had given him and finally landed the trick. Talk about the power of inspiration!
And Patti Smith’s headlining performance was just that — inspiring. On the stage with her was legendary bassist Flea and piano/guitar player Tony Shanahan. They started with a song dedicated to those struggling in the storm raging in the Carolinas, “Peaceable Kingdom,” with Flea and Shanahan playing beautifully together. They performed another song, this time dedicated to Flea’s daughter Claire who just turned 30, “Dancing Barefoot,” that the crowd really got into. They closed the short set with “Pissing in a River,” exiting the stage to cheers as the video projection screen came down to share a message from co-founders Jesse Paris Smith (Patti Smith’s daughter) and Rebecca Foon.
The first Pathway to Paris concerts took place in Paris in 2015 and coincided with the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Most recently, 2017 saw a concert at New York City’s historic Carnegie Hall where Pathway to Paris announced the launch of the ‘1000 Cities’ initiative. The initiative invites all cities of the world to transition off fossil fuels and move to 100% renewable energy by 2040 in order to turn the Paris Agreement into reality. At one point, the audience was asked to grab the pen and paper below their chairs to write a letter to Gavin Newsom, and take out their phones to join the petition for 1,000 clean cities by 2040.
Other than Patti Smith, performances from Talib Kweli, Lucinda Williams, Tenzin Choegyal, Eric Burdon and Karen O really shined. Talib Kweli’s “Lonely People,” sampling The Beatle’s “Eleanor Rigby” had the crowd singing along during the chorus and left the crowd impressed with his freestyle skills. Eric Burdon brought a full band with him to the stage for an equally impressive mini-set filled with blues-y guitar and keys solos, and wailing sax and trombone features. His set consisted of “In the Pines,” “Mother Earth” and “Hold On, I’m Comin'” which closed his set as the crowd danced in their seats.
A particularly moving performance came from Tibetan singer/songwriter Tenzin Choegyal, who was accompanied by Rebecca Foon on Cello and Jesse Smith on piano. His rhythmic folk songs were like cries to the universe to protect our planet, encouraging the audience to “protect our roof.” He also performed a song, “Snow Lion,” about “very elegantly leaving fear behind.” His performance moved Lucinda Williams to tears as she took the stage next and shared just how powerful his songs were to her. Jesse and Rebecca shared that Tenzin had written to the Dalai Lama on behalf of the cause, and they read his eloquent response, calling on the world to join the cause in protecting our environment.
Karen O took the stage to perform a couple songs she wrote from the Where the Wild Things Are motion soundtrack. “Worried Shoes” and “Hideaway” showcased her soft vocals that were unmistakeably hers. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s guitarist Imaad Wasif joined her on stage as well.
Tony Hawk also had the pleasure of introducing Dhani Harrison, sharing a story of how he was invited to Harrison’s home for dinner in London when he was 17. He shared about how he went from skating on the street to having dinner in a castle with George Harrison, Tom Petty and more. Dhani Harrison took the stage and performed a song never performed live for the audience, “All Things Must Pass.” He brought Jim James to the stage for a duet before Jim James continued on, performing one more song for the crowd.
Parisian singer Imany opened the night with three powerful songs including a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea took the stage after for some mesmerizing bass loops, showcasing his skillful hand and trumpet playing.
The show was continuous with video “intermissions” including slides of Greenland literally melting away from environmentalist Bill McKibben and messages from hosts Jesse Smith and Rebecca really hit home with the audience, encouraging togetherness and action. It all culminated in each performer on stage for the last song, playing their instrument or clapping along and singing backup to Patti Smith’s “People Have The Power.” The entire audience was on their feet, and the sense of unity and change was a strong forcefield over the Ace that night.
All photos by Brett Adair Padelford