Tuesday night’s 24th annual benefit concert for Tibet House has to rank up there as one of the most entertaining and eclectic musical performances at Carnegie Hall in recent years. Carnegie Hall has been known as the grand old venue for musical tradition in the heart of Manhattan since 1891 and there have been more than 46,000 events in the hall's three auditoriums since that time. However, Tuesday evening's concert had the audience dancing in the aisles, defying the Carnegie Hall stereotype of the reserved, seated audience.
Curated by Phillip Glass, the two plus hour concert featured a potpourri of performances, from chanting monks, poetry readings, the antics of punk rocker Iggy Pop and members of New Order, the ever engaging Patti Smith and the soulful sounds of the Tibetan singer and songwriter Techung and his band of multicultural musicians.
Sets with Pop, Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman onstage during "Transmission" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" were notable as was The National's three song set. Concert curator and well known composer Philip Glass also had a cameo appearance, performing on piano with several artists.
A small army of ushers did their best to contain the enthusiastic crowd but their attempts to control the youthful energy and cell phone photo snaps gave way to peaceful co-existence, as a few young fans broke out into the aisles to sing and dance. As the evening built to a love fest among the musicians and the audience, Pop, Patti Smith and their bands got the entire crowd up out of their seats, clapping to the beat and fist pumping in the aisles. The scene was more reminiscent of a 1970’s Rolling Stones concert than the staid stereotype of an evening at Carnegie Hall, which this writer found refreshing and highly enjoyable.
One of the night’s special moments was Smith’s tribute to the late Lou Reed, himself a past performer at the annual Tibet House benefit. "We would like to dedicate this song to Lou's most wonderful wife, Laurie," Smith said, introducing her cover of Reed’s haunting ballad "Perfect Day."
Other than the chanting monks who came onstage to open the show, the only Tibetan artists to perform were Tibetan singer and songwriter Techung and his band, who appeared halfway through the evening. Their mix of contemporary and traditional Tibetan folk music got the crowd clapping and dancing, setting the stage for the escalating excitement of the second half of the show. The band’s signature song, “Snow Lion of Peace”, an ode to the Dalai Lama, featured the powerful vocals of Techung, accompanied by a string quartet.
Patti Smith and her band closed the two-hour-plus concert with Pop, New Order, members of the National and others on "People Have the Power." Smith’s high energy delivery got the young and older audience mixing it up, dancing and singing in the aisles and down in front of the stage, while the entire roster of performers, including Glass and Pop, sang and swayed to the music.
Tibet House is a nonprofit organization located in Manhattan whose mission is to raise awareness of and preserve Tibetan arts and culture. For More information about Tibet House, visit the Tibet House website.