Live Review: Patti Smith's Horses

19 October 2015 | 3:08 pm | Benjamin Meyer

"What ensues can only be described as intense happy mayhem."

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A monotonous soundscape plays as the audience filters into Melbourne Town Hall for Milk! Records' and Melbourne Festival's tribute to Patti Smith's Horses. A spoken word version of Piss Factory plays over the hubbub to announce the beginning of the gig. The words are hard to make out over the chattering crowd, however by the time "And I'm gonna go, I'm gonna get out of here" is coming out of the speakers the audience is quiet in anticipation.

The band enters and a single white light illuminates Adalita in the centre of the stage. Channelling Smith, she launches into Gloria, nailing every growl and shriek. Courtney Barnett follows with Redondo Beach. Wearing a blue flanney, Barnett's interpretation is very much Courtney Barnett singing a Patti Smith cover. Gareth Liddiard performs his rendition of Birdland. It'd be fair to be confused into thinking that you were at a Drones gig, especially since The Drones' guitarist and keys players (Dan Luscombe and Steve Hesketh respectively) make up half the backing band. The song is well suited for Liddiard however, with narrative lyrics that allow the band to take the audience through multiple gravelly falsetto crescendos. Adalita returns for Free Money and kills it. Jen Cloher's first appearance on stage singing Kimberly fails to enthuse the audience, however her follow-up Land: Horses/Land Of A Thousand Dances/La Mer(de) complete with the spoken word introduction is sublime, easily the best song of the concert. Powerful and grandiose, Cloher proves to everyone that she is an amazing performer. They even seamlessly merge into the Gloria chorus at the end of the song. Elegie, the final song of the set, is led by Liddiard. Short and sharp, Liddiard growls a "thank you" into the mic as the band wanders off the stage.

Surprising no-one, everyone comes back on stage for an encore of My Generation. Adalita, Liddiard, Cloher and Barnett take it in turns to sing each verse. Unfortunately the backing mic isn't turned on so the first chorus is missed, however, once that is resolved, what ensues can only be described as intense happy mayhem. Barnett literally drops the mic several times and Hesketh even runs up and plays the grand organ, but it's hard to hear over the sheer amount of noise coming from the rest of the band. The entire band is brought back on stage for one final curtain call and the crowd cheers their hearts out, seemingly surprised that they're having so much fun on a school night.