Club owner Hillel Kristal’s legendary CBGB died a slow death. A long, drawn-out affair that, when it came on October 15, 2006, seemed inevitable. The old venue’s state then was perfectly described by Ben Sisario in the New York Times as “the famously crumbling rock club that has been in continuous, loud operation since December 1973, serving as the casual headquarters and dank incubator for some of New York’s most revered groups.”
But CBGB’s still had some life in it, as did all of the old New York haunts that folded under Giuliani and Bloomberg. CBGB outlasted so much of old New York that it seemed indestructible, and thus slightly annoying until it was gone. Yet it needed to be seen into the next world in real style, and so it was, all thanks to Patti Smith.
On the club’s closing night, Smith and band convened to pay tribute to that “dank incubator” by playing not only the bands it birthed but those who came before. At the top, see their live take on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” It lacks the strange delicacy of the original, but once Smith takes off her glasses and Flea, who sat in for a few tunes, cuts loose, it’s a serious rocker. Smith’s ad-lib at the end is as captivating as her announcement—“Rolling Stones!”—is unnecessary.
Smith’s band also played a Ramones medley (above) more than worthy of the formidable Queens foursome. Sure, anyone could play these songs—that was the point. But not many could so well capture the Ramones’ tuneful enthusiasm in the New York band’s ancestral home.
Lastly we bring you Smith and band’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” Although this footage predates Reed’s passing by seven years, it’s still a poignant tribute to the man who perhaps more than any other musician and writer inspired the ethos of the old CBGB. Without Lou Reed, we would have no… better not to finish that sentence. Enjoy the CBGB tribute above and see more of the final night’s celebration here.