As part of her covers album, Twelve, Patti Smith took on some of the music world’s best and brightest songs. While some tracks may not please all her fans, it’s undeniable that her cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is a poignant moment on the record.
Here, during a festival in 2008, Smith gives a passionate and powerful live performance of the grunge anthem and sends shivers down our spine with her ability to transcend genre and artist to bare her soul on all her artistic pursuits. Watch the performance of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ below.
We’re big fans of Patti Smith here at Far Out Magazine. The iconic artist rightly holds the moniker as the Godmother of Punk, but in truth, she is so much more. A writer, poet, pursuer of truth and an all-round nice person to boot. But above all else, Patti Smith is a performer, which is why in 2008 at the Peace Festival in Kazan, Russia, she delivered this stunning rendition of Nirvana’s Nevermind classic.
The debate on Smith’s 2007 covers album Twelve will rage on for years to come. Diehard fans will always be split by it, half are happy to hear Smith’s take on some of the classic songs of rock and roll, while others were only desperate for more original material from Smith and her band. Yet, we’ve found, with time, that the album grows more and more with every listen and have found some of Smith’s most truthful work appears in her covers of great artists.
None more so than in her cover of Nirvana. The stripped-back version of the song that Smith lays down on Twelve is a perfect reflection of Smith as an artist. The cover removes the grunge posturing and adolescent angst and replaces it with a clearer structure and more distilled message.
It’s a message of unrest and deliberate confrontation which is only accelerated in this rare live performance of the song. Smith is clearly enamoured with the song as she does her best to deliver her lyrics with focused energy and powerful meaning until finally the passion of the moment gets the better of her and she begins to give in to the music.
It’s a joy to watch as a veteran performer takes the words and music of another, strips back all the excess fat and delivers a quite sumptuous performance, full of cerebral protein, essential musical oils, and above all else, sizzling with passion.
Watch below as Patti Smith covers Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ live in 2008.