The Bridge Benefits were fantastic. I went to both shows and Patti was outstanding on Saturday and Sunday. It was a stellar lineup to be among and I am sure that much of the crowd wasn't familiar with Patti or her material, but she was still enthusiastically received.
On Saturday, Patti was introduced by Neil as "My friend Patti Smith." She opened with "Wing" and dedicated it to Neil's son Ben. Lenny, Tony and Oliver were playing acoustic guitar and Jay Dee had his full drum kit setup, but was playing mostly with brushes. Next up was "Beneath the Southern Cross," which sounded amazing with four acoustic guitars and just builds so beautifully. "Ghost Dance" and "Gone Again" followed, then a transcendent "About a Boy." "People Have the Power" closed the set. The back of the stage was lined with the kids that attend the Bridge School, all in wheelchairs, and Patti sang half the song facing them, with her back to the audience. It was an beautiful gesture and she left the stage to a standing ovation.
At the end of the show, Neil invited all the performers on-stage and went into "Helpless." Patti sauntered on-stage up to Billy Talbot's mike and joined in for a few choruses. It didn't look like anything out of the ordinary was gonna happen until during one of the instrumental breaks, Patti just stepped up to the mike and went into a great "Birdland"-like improv. Back to the chorus, and then another improv by Patti. Neil Young looked floored. It was great.
On Sunday afternoon, Patti did another great set, and added "Dancing Barefoot"
after "Ghost Dance." Neil's wife Peggy introduced her as "The Bridge
School's new friend for life".
Copyright © Mark Faigenbaum,1996