Andy Warhol has figured prominently in Patti Smith’s life, particularly through her friendship with another artist, the late Robert Mapplethorpe. In her 2010 book Just Kids, Smith recalled how much Warhol was an inspiration to Mapplethorpe back in the late Sixties. “It was as close to hero worship as [Robert] ever got,” she wrote. “He respected artists like Cocteau and Pasolini . . . but for Robert, the most interesting of them was Andy Warhol, documenting the human mise-en-scene in his silver-lined Factory.”
More than 40 years later, Smith paid tribute to Warhol during a concert Friday night at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is currently presenting the exhibit Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years. Accompanied by guitarist Lenny Kaye, organist and percussionist Eric Hoegemeyer and pianist (and Smith’s daughter) Jesse Paris Smith, the singer performed some of her famous compositions as well as cover songs that have a connection with Warhol and his crew from the Factory era.
Smith opened the show at the Met’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium with a soulful rendition of the classic “Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground, whose 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, was produced by Warhol; that was followed by a performance of the Rolling Stones’ “Factory Girl.” She also sang Jackson Browne’s “These Days,” which was performed by Nico, the German singer who also appeared on the Velvet Underground’s first record. After reading a poem she wrote in the early Seventies about the late Warhol associate Edie Sedgwick, Smith delivered a take on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which is rumored to be an allusion to Sedgwick.
In between the cover tunes and her spoken-word readings, Smith also performed songs from her own career – among them “Ghost Dance,” “Pissing in a River,” “Because the Night” and “This is the Girl” from her latest album, Banga. She also delivered a dramatic and fiery reading of “Piss Factory” and read an excerpt from Just Kids about Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling at Max’s Kansas City, the famed Manhattan venue where Warhol and his associates convened in the backroom.
While the set paid homage to the memory of Warhol – who died 25 years ago – through words and song, it wasn’t a solemn affair. Smith displayed her self-deprecating sense of humor throughout the show, and joked about her discomfort with some of David Bowie’s lyrics while covering “Andy Warhol,” off the 1971 album Hunky Dory. She then brought it back to her own material to close out the set with “People Have the Power” and a fervent “Gloria.”
Although Smith wrote in Just Kids that she “didn’t feel for Warhol the way Robert did” back then, she acknowledged Warhol’s brilliance during the concert. “I so deeply appreciate his vision,” Smith said. “He gave us such a great body of work and we’re all grateful for that.”
“Pale Blue Eyes” (Velvet Underground)
“This is the Girl”
“Factory Girl” (Rolling Stones)
“These Days” (Jackson Browne)
“Pissing in a River”
“Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan)
“Because the Night”
“Andy Warhol” (David Bowie)
“People Have the Power”