Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, New Order + More - Carnegie Hall - 3/11/14
Better Than: Possibly expected.
Photo by Loren Wohl. See more photos from last night. Iggy Pop and New Order
A benefit concert can be tricky business. There's a necessity to show earnestness when addressing the cause it benefits while an expectation for a fully-stocked and exciting line-up of performances and surprises exists. It can go horribly wrong or it can be an illuminating, moving and exciting night worthy of the cause it supports and the money shelled out by patrons to benefit said cause. At Carnegie Hall last night, where the 24th Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert took place, the evening quite certainly felt like the latter.
See also: How Not to Throw a Human Rights Benefit
Over halfway through the concert, Tibet House's vice president and legend of minimalist music Philip Glass noted that a certain amount of luck is necessary to put together these shows. From start to finish, it felt lucky to witness the performances and collaborations on stage as they honored the great work of the Tibet House US. The institution itself serves as a cultural embassy and educational non-profit founded in 1987 to preserve the cultural and spiritual heritage and legacy of Tibet. The cause and purpose of the event and work done by this particular set of artists as well as those not present were clear and resonated throughout the evening. Though star-studded, the benefit's purpose was not diluted by the excitement in the air and the surprises presented over the course of a few hours.
Loren Wohl Tim Fain and Philip Glass
Opening with Tibetan monks chanting, the organization's president Robert Thurman gave a few remarks on the work that's been done and necessity to keep knowledge on rich culture Tibet has to offer that is being stifled by its government. Robert Randolph then jolted the audience awake as seated patrons bounced in their seats itching to get up and move. Randolph looked exuberant on stage as he performed alongside Patti Smith's Band and shredded on his pedal steel guitar through a pair of songs. His performance did show, however, the fatal flaw of hosting acts like these in an esteemed concert hall like Carnegie -- the discrepancy between the type of venue we were in with the type of visceral reaction one might have to the songs being played. Though Carnegie allows for the type of necessary reverence for the cause, it's difficult to stay seated as Randolph falls to his knees while playing the pedal steel guitar, yanking it around in front of him as if he were about to smash it just to solidify that the spirit of rock 'n' roll had so moved him.
A more concert hall-appropriate performance followed up and slowed things down with The National's Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner. As offensively inoffensive and polarizing as they can be, with the edition of indie rock's resident cool weirdo Sufjan Stevens on backing vocals. Still firmly seated in place, the audience experienced a trio of percussion-less, string-focused compositions from the band that were emotionally moving and gorgeous. "This Is the Last Time" specifically benefited from its even more slowed down arrangement, and Stevens' backing vocals offered a nice dynamic to the tracks.
Stevens stayed on stage to continue performing with Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly as they presented the "naked versions" of a pair of tunes from their solar system-themed classical collaboration Planetarium. Again, stripped down compositions felt welcome in the venue and upped the emotional quality exponentially. Muhly stayed on stage for a phenomenal piano duet with his mentor Philip Glass before allowing Glass and violinist Tim Fain to weave "The French Lieutenant" into "The Pendulum" for an evening highlight. There are no words Glass words to describe Glass' consistently brilliant performances at this point, but it was Fain who really shined and moved the room with his virtuosity. The duo garnered the first and partial standing ovation of the evening.