When Hilly Kristal, the legendary owner of punk Mekkah CBGB’s in New York, was finally forced to give in to the financial demands of a small music venue in a big city and close down the iconic music venue, there was one woman determined to make sure it got the send-off it deserved; the punk poet, Patti Smith.
Officially closing its grimy doors on October 15th, 2006, the iconic New York stalwart was formerly a biker bar but was transformed under Kristal to become one of the most important venues in the country during the late 1970s and ’80s.
The letters of the name CBGB stood for Country, Blue Grass, and Blues, which all speak to Kristal’s original vision. Despite this somewhat wholesome concept, CBGB soon became a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, and Talking Heads and then on to provide one of the only welcoming platforms for hardcore punk during the ’80s.
It’s a legacy that has seen the venue, once famed for its fearsome reputation and unthinkably sticky floors, transcend from the stuff of legend into a branding powerhouse. A venue with so much clout in the industry that it seemed almost impossible that it could ever be killed off — CBGBs was the proverbial cockroach of the musical landscape.
One key figure in the birthing of such an infamous scene was Patti Smith and her band. The punk poet is a firm favourite around New York – owing much to her love affair with the city – and she showed what she was made of every time she ever entered the stage. With all of those performances and some others, too, Smith also showed why she was the only choice to be on the CBGB stage back in 2006.
Rather than provide a simple set of her own work, something that we’re sure would have gone down very well with the CBGB crowd, Smith instead decided to offer up some poignant covers. By doing so, she not only gave the audience a good show but paid homage to those who had graced the stage before her.
Covering The Rolling Stones song ‘Gimme Shelter’ with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea on bass, only adding to the all-stars on stage, the singer contributes her own unique viewpoint on the dad-rock classic. Smith then moved on to not only play a Ramones-medley with an electric and energetic enthusiasm that would’ve made the gruesome foursome proud but then offers a touching rendition of Lou Reed/Velvet Underground’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’. It makes for a truly beguiling set worthy of the final moments.
The series of covers and the performance, in general, was Patti Smith’s final farewell to the place where so much of what we consider mainstay punk rock nowadays found its first words. From the dirty and grime-filled incubator of CBGB to New York and then out to the world, this was the place to scream your name hoping to be heard.
Take a look below at the wonderful performance as Patti Smith bid farewell to CBGB back in 2006. The full setlist can also be found further down.
Patti Smith CBGBs final show tracklisting:
- ‘Piss Factory’
- ‘The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game’ – (The Marvelettes cover)
- ‘The Tide Is High’ – (The Paragons cover) (followed by “Kimberly” reprise)
- ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ – (The Velvet Underground cover)
- ‘Marquee Moon’ – (Television cover) (with Richard Lloyd)
- ‘We Three’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Distant Fingers’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Without Chains’
- ‘Ghost Dance’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Set II’
- ‘Sonic Reducer’ – (Dead Boys cover)
- ‘Redondo Beach’ – (with Flea)
- ‘Free Money’
- ‘Pissing in a River’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Gimme Shelter’ – (The Rolling Stones cover)
- ‘Space Monkey’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ / ‘Beat on the Brat’ / ‘Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?’ / ‘Sheena Is a Punk Rocker’ – (Ramones cover)
- ‘Ain’t It Strange’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ – (The Byrds cover)
- ‘Rock n Roll Nigger’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘Babelogue’ – (Patti Smith Group song)
- ‘For Your Love’ – (Graham Gouldman cover)
- ‘My Generation’ – (The Who cover)
- Gloria – (Them cover)