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The traveling-by-rail ‘public art project’ known as Station to Station rolled into St. Paul’s newly refurbished Union Depot last week as a multimedia platform for a cultured evening of senses-arousing art experimentation. Several installations and demonstrations were done inside primary-colored Yurts (or tented nomadic art structures) both outside and inside, and there were additional expressions such as locally-based Kate Casanova’s 1976 AMC Pacer, with live growing mushrooms fully encompassing the inside of the car.
The music was also eclectic for the St. Paul stop of this nine-city tour-- from Chicago duo White Mystery who brought their garage rock sound, to Jonny Olsen who played a Laotian khaen, to the experimental punk of Los Angeles’ No Age, Fiery Furnaces’ indie-pop from Eleanor Friedberger, and a much-anticipated appearance from legendary musician/poet/author Patti Smith with eldest son, Jackson.
“Long live the railway, long live the Depot”, Patti Smith declared as she ended the evening’s events with an exclamation point. Starting with the introspective ‘My Blakean Year’ and following with a cover of Neil Young’s ‘It’s a Dream’, both seemed more than appropriate starters with their lyrical railway references. Smith’s full band, expanded from what was billed as only an acoustic accompaniment from son Jackson, included Jayhawks’ Gary Louris on guitar and Mark Mallman on keys.
After shooing away photographers and playing a “little song for the girls”, ‘Redondo Beach’, the set hit its stride with a passionate ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’ and crescendo’d with the back-to-back ‘Because the Night’ and ‘People Have the Power’. The band left the stage and house lights came up, but the rowdy crowd would not be denied and were awarded an encore of ‘Banga,’ after several minutes of applauding and foot stomping.
Smith’s set ran just short of an hour, almost double her allotted time, but was still too short for most of the enraptured crowd. Though the performance came off as under rehearsed and a tad sloppy, this was precisely the type of experimentation and ‘creative collision’ that the festival itself was based on, and in that regard, was a complete triumph.
Patti Smith at Station To Station, St Paul (09/12/13)