Patti Smith at Hebden bridge Trades Club - review by Anthony Cotton

Patti Smith
Patti Smith

She was more frail than I expected.

She shuffled onto stage and Tony Shannahan, “my collaborator”, helped her strap on her guitar. Then she looked up, smiled, to herself, and joined us in the room.

She opened with a Sylvia Plath poem, “it was wonderful to visit Sylvia earlier today”, and over the next 90 minutes drew down the poets and sages from their restless places. Robert Mapplethorpe, Fred Smith and Blake swelled the 180 souls at the Trades Club. Patti raged against her losses - ‘Pissing the River’ an angry cry against a world that could reject Mapplethorpe so young (still just a kid); ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’ her lament for Fred, her lover and home builder. She is our Mary Shelley. She has constructed an artistic colony of collaborators around her, all believing that the world can be changed by envisioning the world as it should be through creative endeavour.

Never have I seen so many tears at a gig, this was soul sung from the soul but with a playfulness and charm. At times a comedian, at times a poet, at times a storyteller, breaking off from her reading out of ‘Just Kids’ to describe her hatred of Mapplethorpe’s favourite Vanilla Fudge album. And throughout accompanied by Tony Shannahan, sometimes on acoustic guitar, sometimes on piano, but always just there.

Blake is her inspiration, the Smith/Blake vision a constant. “My dream it lingered near in the form of shining valleys” - Jerusalem started to take form. As the night came to an end in a glorious series of raucous singalongs people smiled, struggled to articulate their feelings and disappeared into the night. “It was just a dream, it’s fading now”, but we left reminded that is the people who have the power.