Live: Das Racist, Rahzel, Laurie Anderson And Many Others Play Philip Glass's Tibet House Benefit At Carnegie Hall
Philip Glass and Friends Tibet House U.S. Benefit w/Laurie Anderson, Tim Fain, Das Racist, Antony, Lou Reed, Stephin Merritt, and Rahzel
Monday, February 13
Better than: Seeing how most ethnic Tibetans live.
Last night's all-star benefit at Carnegie Hall began with a performance by eight unnamed monks from the Drepung Monestary, who entered the hall in silence. The saffron-robed throat singers (each of whom wore a striking orange headpiece reminiscent of a Roman centurion's) took the stage like religious royalty being received by devoted followers. They used microphones that were hardly necessary; their throaty chants sounded like (and carried as strongly as) didgeridoos throughout the hall. It was a pretty surprising and impressive thing to look around the dress circle in Carnegie Hall and see dozens of people with their eyes closed and their hands folded in silent prayer.
Bob Thurman, the star Columbia University professor (and dad of Uma), took the stage right after the monks on behalf of Tibet House. He explained that the mural over the stage was of the Potala Palace, the Dali Lama's historic home in Lhasa (until Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dali Lama, fled in 1959), and gave a rather depressing 20-second history of the plight of the Tibetan people. Then he told the audience to "forget all that" and to "imagine we are in a free Tibet," and he introduced Philip Glass.
Glass strode up in casual black, smiling and looking even more relaxed than he looked on the same stage just two weeks ago when his Symphony No. 9 premiered there, and (with no fanfare) introduced Laurie Anderson.
Anderson took up her violin and played briefly as light bounced off Carnegie's wall, then took to the keyboards and began telling a story. This one began with Anderson wanting to join a Buddhist group on a trip down the Green River; quickly, though, Anderson realized that her group had met up with a combination Outward Bound trip and incest survivors group that relied upon "Indian lore and various self help-programs." She grew tired of these "losers" and their tales of "shitting too close to the campsite," but had to depend on them because they had "the maps and the food." Somehow this segued into a tale of Hansel and Gretel, at which point Antony joined her on stage. Antony began by taking up the reins of Anderson's story ("Gretel, you can really be a bee-yotch!") before soaring into an almost wordless, orgasmic ending.
Antony introduced British electronic music producer/singer-songwriter James Blake. Watching Blake and his band perform live is a fascinating thing. His percussionist (sitting in front of a regular drum set while working off an iPad-sized drum pad) produces sounds like a Star Wars AT-AT walker's footsteps at times; at other times, he made sharp taps that looked totally incongruous with the fluffy covered sticks producing them. The combination of the electronics overwhelming Blake's vocals during "The Wilhelm Scream" and the image of the Dali Lama's Patola Palace overhead brought to mind the Red Army overwhelming the people of Tibet (and the Tibetan people attempting to fight back with peaceful, prayerful resistance).