How Not to Throw a Human Rights Benefit

Categories: Last Night

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Photos C.S. Muncy
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot. More photos: Pussy Riot at the Barclays Center photos

It's true, that old adage about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. Sometimes, there's a seed of a great idea, one that involves a number of powerful celebrities with household names combining the behemoths of their popularity for a noble cause. It blossoms, budding with it an awareness that leaves everyone involved with a fuller head and a determined heart. And sometimes, that road winds and winds around nearly five hours of blitzed sets from some of the biggest names in rock and pop, and it deposits you somewhere under the neon coils of the Flaming Lips' stage setup as the crew rushes to piece it together while Wayne Coyne is flapping his tinsel wings above them and Yoko Ono is wandering around the stage like a grandmother who's been kicked out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving.

See also: Madonna Fan Art You Really Must Own

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Madge
Amnesty International's idea was to, as they've done in the past to great success, produce a super concert with musicians sympathetic to their humanitarian cause in hopes of raising awareness for their mission. Their timing couldn't have been more appropriate, with the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi today. The Games have been a prominent fixture in the news since the decision to host them in Putin's Russia was announced, as homophobic, xenophobic and hyper-conservative political legislation has been embraced and carried out with frightening fervor under the President's administration.

In 2012, Pussy Riot, a punk activist band from Moscow, made headlines the world over when members of the group--who regularly protest against Putin--were arrested for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after they burst into Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a performance that lasted less than a minute. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were each sentenced to two years in prison, though they were released in December 2013. The women were named political prisoners by Amnesty International. Though they (and many others) considered their release to be a publicity stunt by Putin given the nearing start date of the Olympics, their release was celebrated, and their mission to raise awareness for the kind of Russia they live in has not waned.

Pussy Riot was supported by recording artists across the globe throughout the duration of their time in prison: Paul McCartney wouldn't play "Back In The U.S.S.R." during his massive festival-hopping 2013 tour without throwing a "FREE PUSSY RIOT!" into the mix. Madonna, who was touring in Russia at the time of their arrest, called the women "courageous" for their activism, spoke out against their imprisonment and told the Russian government to back the hell off when they warned her against making any statement on her stage that could be considered supportive of LGBTQ rights.

See also: Pussy Riot at the Barclays Center photos

Popular musicians became some of the band's strongest allies, if only in the headlines, which was enough to make their plight a prominent topic of conversation. And so a star-studded concert like Amnesty International's Bringing Human Rights Home offered up the unique opportunity to tap the talents of like-minded artists for a crowd-pleasing night of entertainment while providing Nadia and Masha support and a platform for their message on the eve of the Olympic Games. If Lauryn Hill and Blondie and Colbie Caillat can get butts in seats, fine: those butts in seats will listen to Pussy Riot talk about what they've been through in between sets, with an intro from Madonna to boot, and that, by all accounts, is a good thing.

... Or is it? To circle back to the whole "road to hell, good intentions" thing, the performances at Bringing Human Rights Home were earnest if not totally rushed and poorly planned. Though the lineup was stacked and able, there's absolutely no need for a show consisting of three-song sets to reach the four-hour mark, let alone substantially surpass it. By the time the still-standing members of the lineup staggered out to the stage for a half-hearted, sleepy singalong of "I Shall Be Released" led by Sean Lennon, everyone in that room who had a (still viable) phone was checking the time. The Barclays Center had nearly emptied by half by the time the lights went up around 12:45 a.m., and the wonderful moments--Lauryn Hill's (timely!) entrance with "Ready or Not," Bob Geldof stomping through "The Great Song of Indifference," which he'd dedicated to Pete Seeger, an adorably apologetic Tegan and Sara, Cold War Kids' "Hospital Beds"--had long since been forgotten.


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34 comments
longdongsilver15
longdongsilver15

Madonna, eww. 


"the nature of the crowd, and the event, was exposed: this was a room full of people who were totally cool with helping out and stuff, but they were here to see the bands that they listen to on an iHeart Radio station on the way home from work. This was a room full of people with the best of intentions who had absolutely no desire to receive the message we were all gathered to hear."


That pretty much summed up the event perfectly. 

Brian Perfect
Brian Perfect

Welcome to the USA. Maybe if Madonna started tonguing them, americans would respond.

Konstantin Avramov
Konstantin Avramov

Jesus loves them anyway . One day they will understand . Only love will change the world .

johngagliano
johngagliano

The lips "Lucy in the Sky with diamonds!!! was amazing. I dunno what your talking about or maybe you just dont get the flaming lips. Everyone there loved it.  or the few people left.  

markdanakristal
markdanakristal

A lot of the bands and people in the music industry don't realize that they would not have had a CBGB without my mother, "Karen Kristal". And even though Hilly Kristal helped a lot of musicians, he used my mother in doing this. Many people benefited from CBGB and never thanked her. Especially, The Talking Heads, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, David Burn, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, the Ramones, Seymour Stein, Richard Hell, Dick Manitoba, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Legs McNeil, John Holmstom, Bob Gruen, Warner Brothers, and The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame etc. etc. etc. They benefited the most and never ever thanked her. She's 88 years old and bed ridden. What are they waiting for?

This is how I feel today!…

eugenemkearney
eugenemkearney

@charissawg so pusy riot desecrated a church and showed up wearing crosses on their shirts. reenforcing the stereotype.

Brian Perfect
Brian Perfect

Put you idiots in front of Putin's guys, then report something.

Ten Kat
Ten Kat

Not to mention the poster for "pussy riot" was a man!!

Michael Rega
Michael Rega

I went and totally agree the audience & song selections were just off.

Lori Dilo
Lori Dilo

It was great --- except the set up time!!

Peter Horowitz
Peter Horowitz

Funny, you guys think everything is terrible. Please write about something good.

milosybrant
milosybrant

I'm not surprised to hear that a cash-strapped nonprofit would struggle with managing the logistics of an event of this scale. I was surprised by the author's apparent astonishment that most of the people attending the concert "didn't really know who Pussy Riot were." Isn't that the point? If you wanted a room full of people who knew about Pussy Riot and their ten-month detention in Russia, hold a human rights conference. But then you'd already be preaching to the converted. The intention of last night's concert was to raise awareness among a group of people who might not otherwise be inclined to think about human rights abuses in other countries.

jonathan.nyc
jonathan.nyc topcommenter

I'm pretty sure I read the same article about an Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium in the Village Voice in 1986.  

RichJuz
RichJuz

@hilmonstah I wasn't there, and your write-up makes me glad about that. Sounds like a nightmare.

Matthew Bessell
Matthew Bessell

Well, we thank Yoko, Sean, Sir Bob and the rest of those working it! YES WE DO!

ChrisBurkeShay
ChrisBurkeShay

@kathlanpher Calls Imagine Dragons the "biggest band" on the playbill which included Madonna, Blondie, Flaming Lips—bizarre or am I old now?

azazel.acheron
azazel.acheron

Except, however, that Jesus was not about love...  Christianity is about lies, delusion, and genocide, like The Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, the systematic persecution of  Jews for 1,800 years, enslaving of African Americans, The Holocaust, and yes, 9/11.  In addition, the treatment of women as second class citizens, persecution/torture/murder of Atheists and scientists.  Before you take the moral high ground, learn fucking history...

markdanakristal
markdanakristal

@markdanakristal  Read Village Voice article below and Dana Kristal on Face Book for more facts.

CBGB Made Hilly Kristal a Millionaire—His Ex Got Nothing.

Stevart
Stevart

@eugenemkearney @charissawgThe took their cue from Act Up but were called on it and did jail time.  What the *&^% is LGBTQ anyway? 

hilmonstah
hilmonstah

@RichJuz It was, but the whole business of the mega benefit/the conflicts that go w/ bashing a charitable effort continue to fascinate...

hilmonstah
hilmonstah

@hoorayforearth more or less EXACTLY what Bob Geldof said in the press conference before the show. (That, and "Media, you have failed.")

bananapanana
bananapanana

@azazel.acheron  don't confuse Jesus with the church. Don't confuse Christianity with the church. I'm not a religious person, but I think you are confusing concepts here. Atrocities have been commited in the name of many people who would be horrified.

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