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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, May 21, 2007
    Patti is a Scouser
     
    Last night at Liverpool Academy Patti Smith improvised the name of our city into the climax of one of her most celebrated songs. "G - L - O - R - I - A" became "L - I - V - E - R - P - O - O - L" and the hometown audience, delighted to welcome the first ever inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to this backstreet venue, loved it.

    Of course, this is the sort of thing that many inspirational performers do to win their audiences over. But earlier in the gig Patti had shared with us something quite unique which allayed any suspicions that she may try this again tomorrow in Glasgow, or that she'd had the weekend's ATP crowd singing along to "M - I - N - E - H - E - A - D". She told us that her grandmother was born in Liverpool, and in a wonderful, lengthy prologue to My Blakean Year she took us through her loved one's life story.

    Her grandmother's name was Jessie and she was born in 1894 in the city's dockland area. A poor girl from humble stock she neverthless had a musical talent and she took this with her when, aged eleven, the family emigrated to America. She married a car factory worker, raised a son and before her early death aged just 45 saw her son marry, as Patti put it, "my mother".

    So Patti never knew her Liverpool gran but clearly relished being in the city of her partial origin, and she told us that today she will be searching out the places where her family once lived and worked. Now that's a real connection and it added one more layer of magic to what was, inevitably, a tremendous performance by one of those special artists who you feel privileged to have seen, an artist with a heart for the outsiders and the lost whose songs shine and shudder in your soul.