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Unlike Westerberg, Smith gave not a fig that she was in the presence of people who would determine whether or not she got radio airplay. Although accompanists Oliver Ray and Lenny Kaye were armed with acoustic guitars, the appearance was less "Patti Smith Unplugged" than "Patti Smith--Not Plugged In." Smith was completely discombobulated, forgetting lyrics, admitting that she barely knew how to play a new composition (she borrowed a handkerchief from an audience member to wipe off her sweaty fingers), and otherwise acting as if she'd just awakened. (At one point, she unselfconsciously unbuttoned her jeans to readjust her underwear in full view of the packed house.) It may have been the single least professional show I've ever seen by a major artist--but it was also initimate and hugely enjoyable. Smith is so singular and magnetic a personality that she makes even her less-inspired material worth hearing. Just as important, she has a vision, and she's not going to alter it for anyone. At the Fox, she insisted upon playing drones about death and transcendence that will never be programmed between, say, Jewel and the Gin Blossoms, and even made a speech about today's radio in which she admitted that, in her view, it isn't very good. As a career move, these choices seem moronic, but they're actually why people still care about her. Smith has lasted because of, rather than in spite of, her bravery--a lesson Costello and Westerberg would do well to learn.

By the end of this week, you should be able to find "Jukebox," the Backbeat home page, in the "web extras" section of Westword online (www.westword.com). Look for mini reviews, film clips, trivia contests (complete with prizes), pop-culture flotsam and more, more, more!

An addendum to this week's Al Green profile (page 65): The folks at Jazz Aspen want you to know that lodging packages for the three-day event, begin at $67 per person. Call 1-800-SNOWMASS for more information. Operators are standing by.

Closer to home. On Friday, August 30, Liquid Chicken clucks at the Asylum Gallery; the Girls get together at Ziggie's Saloon; My Blind Alley begins a two-night run at the Rock Bottom Brewery; the Smashing Pumpkins get smashed at McNichols Arena, with Grant Lee Buffalo; and Baldo Rex and the Snatchers get a grip at Seven South. On Saturday, August 31, Loudon Wainwright III joins Wendy Woo at the Fox, and Westfest, featuring Merle Haggard and others, gets underway at Copper Mountain (to learn more, call 1-800-458-8386, ext. 7885). On Sunday, September 1, Martha's Wake, Zeut and Book of Runes turn the page at the Ogden Theater. And on Wednesday, September 4, the Isley Brothers drop by Mammoth Gardens to promote Mission to Please, a sensual comeback album. Remember those condoms, folks.

--Michael Roberts

Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@

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