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- Patti Smith rocks the Old Schoolroom, Haworth, in Bronte benefit gig

Capacity crowd hang on every note on a very special night
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Just pinch me. It's hard to believe in the cold light of day that it all really happened, but Patti Smith was playing the Old Schoolroom in Haworth last night, and it was an amazing gig.

The set list was a microcosm of the Smith oeuvre, but most songs were dedicated to different Brontes, and it was clear she had such a feeling for the family, and felt such closeness with them. In the Radio 4 interview, aired this morning on the 'Today' programme, she revealed how she saw herself, her sister Linda and brother Todd, as having an affinity with the Brontes. Just as Branwell died young, so her family lost Todd early, leaving her and Linda as the only remaining holders of their shared life and memories. There are clear Bronte parallels.

Last night she was magnificent. With just Tony Shanahan accompanying her on guitar and singing harmony, Patti's voice was naked and exposed, but so rich, and with such depth. She dedicated 'Wing' to Charlotte, and 'Dancing Barefoot' to Cathy and Heathcliff, then read Emily's poem 'Night Wind' to a flute accompaniment by local musician Kizzy Brown, 13, who'd written a piece specially to accompany the music. Patti was so generous to Kizzy, whom she'd only met the day before, inviting her up on stage at the end. What a life-changing experience for a schoolkid, to play live on stage with the great godmother of punk! She will surely never forget it.

The temperature of the evening rose as Patti hit 'Ghost Dance', and you could feel the audience behind her every step of the way, then on through the powerful, raw 'Pissing in a River', and on to the anthemic 'Because the Night', which she encouraged the audience to sing with her, and which she dedicated to Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. Her encore was 'People Have the Power', before which she remembered Patrick Bronte, who fathered those astonishing children, but who had the tragedy to outlive them all.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have been there, 35 years to the day after 'Because the Night' was released. The Bronte Society is honoured and grateful. Thank you so much, Patti!

Julie Akhurst


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