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Patti Smith plays iconic hits during Selby Gardens performance

Patti Smith performs.
Patti Smith performs.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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Fran Hamilton didn’t have any difficulty in describing what drew her to the line that stretched across the entrance grounds of Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus.

“An iconic '70s creative tour-de-force,” were her words. 

Feb. 15 saw the return of Patti Smith, the singer, songwriter, artist, author and poet, to Selby Gardens, for "An Evening with Patti Smith Dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe."

The gardens’ inaugural Artist in Residence as of 2022, who most recently visited in November of that year, Smith offered a performance rich in romantic themes in honor of the Jean & Alfred Goldstein Exhibition, "Yayoi Kusama: A Letter to Georgia O’Keeffe," which explores the mentoring relationship between the two artists, and in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

The event saw attendees walking away with loving thoughts in return. 

“She was absolutely just so personable,” said local musician Suzie Hopes. “She was lovely.”

“I very much enjoyed the concert,” said Kathy Garcia. “I thought she was very relatable, very down to earth, and bonded well with the crowd. It was great. I’m glad she keeps coming back to Selby.”

Patti Smith and Tony Shanahan perform.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Throughout the performance, Smith spoke to the crowd, addressing them in an upfront and intimate manner. 

“It wouldn’t be me if I was not disorganized and only slightly ill-prepared,” Smith said as she arrived on stage, sorting through papers she had brought along and pulling out one to read a letter from Georgia O’Keeffe to the love of her life, photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

The performance featured some of Smith’s most iconic hits such as “Because the Night” and “People Have the Power,” and featured works by other artists such as “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles. It was interspersed with additional letters between O’Keeffe and Stieglitz as well as Smith’s own poetry.

As a surprise to the audience, the concert also featured Smith’s daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, on keyboard. Additional guitar and vocals were provided by Tony Shanahan, a longtime co-performer of Smith.

Attendees new and returning were eager for the chance to see the iconic artist in person. 

Garcia’s friend Nancy Chavenson said she had read Smith’s book, “Just Kids,” 10 years ago, and re-read it in January in preparation for the concert. 

“I had to meet this creative woman, and I’m so happy to be here,” she said. 

Jesse Paris Smith watches as Patti Smith performs a recitation.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Lisa Hirten said her memories of Smith go back to when she was young and in her college dorm room listening to Smith’s music, drawn in by “her lyrics and her passion.”

“I think what even added to it for me now is to know her cause, what’s behind it, what’s important to her,” she said. “That has added to it as I’ve grown older, and made it more meaningful.”

“It’s a perfect night in Sarasota,” said Jeff Coe, who came there partly for the experience of the gardens at night and the sunset over the bay. Coe had last seen Smith in Chicago in the 1980s.

“It means more to me as a senior adult, just because I have the perspective to look back at that era,” he said. “At that time, it was all music. Now it’s much more.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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