I'm running out of superlatives for Patti Smith. I haven't seen her play a better show than the glorious couple of hours she delivered at Brighton's Dome last night.
She and her band have been on the road for several months now, on the back of their excellent Banga album. The musicians are tight, assured and powerful - and anything but jaded. She is supremely confident and self-aware, singing and moving superbly, seemingly relaxed and in her element. As the show progresses, she switches easily between communicating girlish glee - in telling a host of stories from her seaside stay and then upstaging Lenny Kaye's Nuggets medley by sitting on the edge of the stage swinging her feet and waving to the audience - and delivering a series of mesmerising performances.
She ranged widely across her back catalogue, with some older, obscurer selections like 'Distant Fingers' and 'Free Money' mixed in with new material like 'Fuji-San' and 'Banga' - the latter featuring her son Jackson reprising the dog noises he contributed on the record. And there were extraordinary readings of a series of classics - 'Redondo Beach', 'Pissing In A River', 'Because The Night', 'Gloria' and finally - and unbeatably - 'Rock 'n' Roll Nigger'. She spelled out Pussy Riot's name at the end of 'Gloria' and returned to their cause in the electrifying climax of the set - convinced and convincing in her determination that people do indeed have the power 'to redeem the work of fools'.
Heading home happily I couldn't help reflecting on an afternoon spent listening to Bob Dylan's Tempest. He is five years older than Patti, but there is a gulf now which feels an awful lot wider.
His is an old man's album: a perfectly decent and listenable one, but with nothing particularly new to communicate, and a fair amount of padding and verbal clumsiness in amongst the one-liners and flashes of wit, which remind us of why we're still listening to him. Inevitably, it isn't quite as good as some of the 5-star reviews suggest: it is an unavoidable fact that Bob does not sing or write as well as he used to. I certainly do not dismiss late-period Dylan and I love the fact that he is still out there doing his thing. But I can't say I return to his recent albums that often, despite some classy playing and treasurable moments, and I no longer rush to get tickets to see him live.
In contrast, I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Patti, at 65, is an artist in her prime, vital and compelling. I'm already wondering when I can see her again. A US tour with Neil Young? Hmm...