Joseph Barrak/AFP/Getty Images
Patti Smith plays the Byblos festival, July 8.
Last night I saw a Patti Smith concert. Remember punk rock legend Patti Smith?
She's most known for her 1978 hit "Because the Night."
I saw her in the most unlikely of venues: the ancient Phoenician city of Byblos, Lebanon. She kicked off this year's Byblos International Festival. The concert was attended by Lebanon's new president, Michel Suleiman. I wish I'd had a portal into his brain during the show. Is he a fan?
As it turned out, Patti Smith was more powerful in what she said than in her music. When she conveyed a message of unity and peace, the crowd went wild. But when her songs began, they were largely lost on the audience. When she let her voice wail, the audience went nuts. But a lot of her songs were led by heavy keyboard riffs that were too pillowy for the famous rocker, and the audience felt it.
That is, until she sang "Because the Night." That's when the crowd rose to its feet, and teenagers ran to the base of the stage. Smith paused and let the audience take over the chorus:
"Because the night belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to us."
That song hit the charts a couple years before I was born, and that's probably why I never really paid attention to it.
Until last night. That song rocks. When the crowd rose, I did, too. I belted whatever lyrics I knew, and the ones I didn't know, I made up.
Now when I hear that song, I'll picture Patti Smith on stage in Byblos, with a cedar of Lebanon pendant around her neck, a Lebanese flag on her right. Behind the stage, a 12th century castle built by the Crusaders. Behind the crowd, the Mediterranean.