The 31st Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, March 3rd began as it has traditionally, with an invocation from Tibetan monks followed by an introduction from the organization’s President and Vice-President, Robert Thurman and Philip Glass. It was noted that Rhiannon Giddens wouldn’t be performing as weather caused her flight to be canceled. She “even tried Amtrak” but had no luck. That was unfortunate as Giddens’s voice would have been a powerful inclusion but the evening was still a strong mix of folk, traditional, rock and other genres of music with protest and resistance.
Glass then introduced the next band Los Vega, Veracruz, Mexico, as one he found on the street outside his apartment. The group ended their set with “Bamba” which saw the lead male singer stand atop a box and move his feet wildly. They led into a couple of songs from Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) who covered Nina Simone’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and Glass’s “Etude #6”. The latter was wonderfully performed, particularly close to the composer no less, and radiated light.
Philip Glass performed his own “Etude #10” later in the evening backed by the Scorchio Quartet who brought a masterful new interpretation to the piece. The Scorchio Quartet has been part of the benefit shows for 18 years as Glass noted having been invited by David Bowie originally. The group accompanied a number of other performers throughout the evening including the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt who, along with Sam Davol, added levity to the event with his humorous tunes.
Patti Smith’s set was close to, if not the highlight performance of the evening. When Smith took the stage, she began by intoning Argentinian poet María Elena Walsh and praising the students from Parkland for their March for Our Lives movement. She (and the Patti Smith Band) covered the classic Buffalo Springfield protest song, “For What It’s Worth” as their first tune.
Smith then spoke out against the US Government’s relocation of the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. “We don’t want a fucking embassy in Jerusalem,” she protested. The “holy city does not need American embassy”. The audience cheered. Then the group began “Peaceable Kingdom” from her album Trampin’. The song’s lyrics, “Maybe one day we’ll be strong enough / To build it back again / Build the peaceable kingdom / Back again”, are apt for the Tibetan people and the Tibet House, with its mission to “ensure the survival of Tibetan civilization and culture”.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ lead singer Paul Janeway joked they might never get invited back to Carnegie Hall as he introduced his band. I’d never seen the group before, and I heard he’s a wild frontman. Janeway certainly was more amped than other stars of the night as he danced and pushed himself across the stage on his back. He also tossed his sparkly shoes aside during “Broken Bones & Change”, which culminated in a standing ovation from the audience.
Carly Simon later reiterated Smith’s message on Jerusalem. She resoundingly said the city should remain neutral as she joined the Resistance Revival Chorus for a rousing finale of “Let the River Run”. The impressive RRC, whose numerous members strolled down the aisles towards the stage, had already done two great songs but supported Simon on her hit along with other performers from the evening.