The Tibet House educational institute and cultural center in New York is a non-profit organization that “serves to expose and share” the unique civilization. As artistic director Philip Glass noted on stage for the at Carnegie Hall on February 22nd, the organization has hosted an annual benefit for 26 years now to support the organization’s mission to promote and preserve the cultural and spiritual heritage of Tibet. The event has gone from the smaller Town Hall venue in its early years to Carnegie Hall for the present event (and many others past). One of the draws for performers, as Glass explained, particularly those from the pop or rock worlds, was that while their own careers may have put them on a trajectory to play big arenas, through supporting the Tibet House, they get the opportunity to do a few songs in the hallowed venue.
This year the biggest rock performer was Iggy Pop, who channeled a previous performer, David Bowie as a tribute to the legendary musician (who had also supported the Tibet House). A lot of the crowd probably wouldn’t normally be at Carnegie Hall had it not been for Iggy Pop. But he was slated for the end so a number of other things had to happen before he would take stage.
The Benefit kicked off with a group of Tibetan monks chanting in advance of the organization’s president Robert Thurman giving an introduction. Soon the stage was turned over to Basia Bulat, the songstress from Canada, and her uke. Bulat’s second song, “Someday Soon”, also included accompaniment on harp by Lavinia Meijer. When Meijer had the stage to herself a little while later, she performed an achingly beautiful version of Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis No. 2” on her harp, creating a melancholy that filled the hall. Afterwards the powerful Sharon Jones revived the audience, with the Patti Smith band, serving as house band of sorts, backing her instead of the Daptones.
When FKA twigs took the stage with her three-piece band, she added some sizzle to the typically staid Carnegie Hall. Her short two-song set (“Hide” and “Good to Love”) was even more sensuous with her fluid dance artistry. Twigs had to know the cameras were positioned on her every move as she lingered in each pose. The wild troupe, Gogol Bordello followed up with a raucous set of songs about oppression led by frontman Eugene Hutz. Hutz’s wild movements were in stark contrast to the finely honed poses from twigs but it was just as fun to observe.
Finally, it was Iggy’s turn and he took the stage following a short introduction from Glass in a proper blue suit. His first two pieces were spoken word, which put him a bit closer to Laurie Anderson or Patti Smith in terms of past Tibet House performers. The last poem, “Mom and Dad are Gone”, was set to another Glass composition, “String Quartet No. 5”, which was performed by the Scorchio Quartet. Then came the rock. Moments into Pop’s rendition of Bowie’s “Jean Genie”, as much as I can recall, a girl ran up to the front of the orchestra floor and began dancing by the stage. Security was not pleased and attempted to escort her to the aisle, but she quickly ran back to the edge of the stage. I’m not sure where she ended up because by then practically the entire audience was standing. Iggy Pop then spoke about Bowie and how the next and final song was given to him by Bowie for his Lust for Life album. “Tonight” was the rousing sing along that ended this night, as is the tradition at practically every other Tibet House Benefit, and served as a faithful tribute to the recently lost New Yorker, David Bowie.
Philip Glass / Foday Musa Soso / Lavinia Meijer
Sharon Jones w/ Patti Smith Band
Tibetan Monks – Traditional Chant
Basia Bulat – It Can’t Be You; Someday Soon
Foday Musa Suso – Traveler; Badigyan; Tamala
Lavinia Meijer – Metamorphosis No. 2
Sharon Jones with the Patti Smith Band – She Ain’t a Child No More; Tell Me; 100 Days, 100 Nights
Dechen Shak-Dagsay with Helge Van Dyk – Everest; Black Tara
FKA twigs – Hide; Good to Love
Gogol Bordello – My Companjera; When the Universes Collide; Pala Tute
Iggy Pop – I Talked to a Smart Guy; Mom and Dad are Gone; Jean Genie; Tonight (finale)