On Saturday, March 3, 2018, New York City’s Carnegie Hall was alive with the essence of Tibet as The 2018 Tibet House U.S. Benefit concert featuring an all-star lineup of artists including: Philip Glass; Carly Simon; Blood Orange; Patti Smith; St. Paul and the Broken Bones; Angel Olsen; Stephin Merritt; the Resistance Revival Chorus; Mick Rossi; Ben Taylor; Sophie Hiller; Techung; Los Vega and the Scorchio Quartet, delivered a strong message concerning human rights.
In 1987, the Dali Lama, himself, the living symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, founded The Tibet House U.S., which is dedicated to preserving protecting and empower the unique and rich Tibetan culture here in the United States. Since that time, a yearly concert to raise awareness for Tibet House and the plight of the people of Tibet (who fled when their country was invaded by the Chinese in the 1950s) is held at New York's Carnegie Hall. The concert, curated by composer and vice president of Tibet House, Philip Glass, always features a diverse and amazing group of performers who thrill the crowd with one-of-a-kind collaborations between popular artists and the world’s greatest musicians. Past performers include a who's who of musical royalty that includes: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop; the Roots, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, the Flaming Lips, R.E.M., Paul Simon, Trey Anastasio, Gogol Bordello, New Order members Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman; Laurie Anderson and Shawn Colvin. The 2018 benefit concert celebrated both the 31st Anniversary of the Tibet House.
As in the past, the evening began with a performance by the Tibetan Monks and opening remarks by Tibet House U.S. President Robert Thurman. Glass then took over and introduced Los Vega. Glass told an interesting story about discovering the Mexican musicians when they were busking and performing in the street outside his home. The group’s performance was highlighted by its version of “Bamba” (which many know by its Americanized name--“La Bamba”).
Dev Hynes, also known as Blood Orange was up next. His version of Nina Simone's “Nobody's Fault But Mine” had the audience on the edge of its seats. He followed with a version of Glass’ “Etude #6” that was so beautiful and mesmerizing and enrapturing that one could hear a pin drop. Angel Olson then appeared on stage to perform “White Fire.” She was soon joined by the Patti Smith Band on the Velvet Underground’s “I Found A Reason.” Stephin Merritt, best known as the principal singer and songwriter of the band The Magnetic Fields, delivered a three song set featuring “Wonder Where I'm From” and “Josephine” (with Sam Davol) and “I Think I'll Make Another World” (which featured Davol & the Scorchio Quartet). Merritt’s mini set punctuated by his deep bass voice was powerful and humorous, providing the audience with a few hearty laughs.
Patti Smith never disappoints. After reading a poem by María Elena Walsh, she and her band performed “For What It's Worth” the audience rose to its feet dancing and singing along with the icon. She followed that with “Peaceable Kingdom. When St. Paul & The Broken Bones took the stage, vocalist Paul Janeway made it a point to state, “I don’t know how the hell we follow Patti Smith, but here we go.” The band’s two song set was the most high-energy performance of the evening. He commanded the stage, used his shoes as props and had the audience bopping in the aisles. The performance was electric. Following “Flow With It,” Glass joined the band for a soulful performance of “Broken Bones and Pocket Change.” The standing ovation seemed as though it would never end.
Techung is a Tibetan folk and freedom singer/songwriter living in exile in the San Francisco Bay Area. He performed a reading of “Karma Tatsok” accompanied by Glass on piano and then he and Glass played a piece called “Gamp Lama.” After Techung departed, Glass remained on stage and performed a stirring version of “Etude #10” accompanied by Mick Rossi & the Scorchio Quartet.
Ben Taylor and British singer Sophie Hiller backed by the Patti Smith Band then performed “Friday.” Soon the aisles were filled with members of the Resistance Revival Chorus (all of whom were dressed in brilliant white garb). As they ascended to the stage, the group sang a powerful version of “Woke Up This Sunday Morning with My Mind Stayed On Freedom, followed by a even stronger version of “Light In The Soul” which featured the Scorchio Quartet. As the song came to a close, Carly Simon appeared behind the members of the Resistance Revival Chorus and delivered an amazing version of “Let the River Run.” She, the Resistance Revival Chorus, the Patti Smith Band and the Scorchio Quartet were joined by Glass, Thurman and all of the evening’s performers as they sang the evening to a rousing close.
When the song ended, the performers took their bows, the lights came up and the amazed audience departed the fabled concert hall.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon