Aidin Vaziri | She fearlessly thumped her chest, punched the air and whipped her gray-streaked strands of hair in ferocious circles. As her band tore into the song “Pumping (My Heart)” in a hailstorm of feedback and fury on Wednesday night at the Fillmore, Patti Smith stood teetering at the edge of the stage, strangling her microphone and howling from the bottom of her soul: “Coming in a force field, coming in my brain/ And my heart, my heart/ Total abandon.”
Even though she turned 68 less than a month ago, the punk godmother has lost none of her fire. Kicking off the first of three sold-out shows at the pre-eminent San Francisco venue (she performs there again on Friday, Jan. 23, and Saturday, Jan. 24), Smith held nothing back for nearly two hours, performing a set with her longtime band that veered away from hits but spared no emotion.
Whether instigating the masses with the political and social invocations of “Gandhi,” or delivering a passionate cover of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy,” dedicated to her grandson Frederick, Smith brought with her a fervent intensity that can only be conjured by someone who has given her life over to rock ’n’ roll entirely.