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For over twenty years, The Tibet House, founded by professor Robert Thurman, actor Richard Gere, and composer Philip Glass, has been presenting unique benefit concerts in an effort to preserve the traditional culture of West Tibet. This year, Philip Glass brought together a diverse group of artists including My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, rock and roll legend Patti Smith, former member of The Roots and acclaimed beatboxer Rahzel, and indie darling tUnE-yArDs and Ariel Pink among others to the world famous Carnegie Hall for a memorable night of performance for The Tibet House.
The aura of Carnegie Hall, mixed with the black tie dress code that the artists and a majority of the crowd abided by, instantly gave the night a 'special' vibe. In addition to being home to some of the world's finest classic productions year round, Carnegie Hall has also hosted some extremely culturally significant events: the first two that come to mind are The Beatles first New York City shows and Andy Kaufman's famous comedy show which resulted in tour busses taking the crowd out for milk and cookies post-show. Even for the younger crowd arriving late just to catch a glimpse of Jim James, you could see there was a moment of hesitation when entering the concert hall. It really is a fantastic stage – everything feels a little bit more special in the room.
Philip Glass acted as the musical director, but also as a host and musician as he briefly introduced people as they shuffled on and off stage, and would sit in on piano during many of the performances. Patti Smith's band acted as the house rock and roll band when necessary, and the Scorchio quartet, who performed with Trey Anastasio several years ago in Princeton, NJ, provided the strings. Musical performances were interspersed with speeches and performance of traditional Tibetan music. The two briefly collaborated when Patti Smith's band performed alongside a group of monks, whom provided an acapella chorus to a modern rock song.
Highlights include Ira Glass, cousin of Philip and host and creator of 'This American Life', telling a humorous story, not unlike 'This American Life', accompanied by two dancers and music, creating a mid-show mini-show that may have been the most entertaining part of the night. Jim James did a mini-set of songs from his latest solo album, providing the most straight forward rock and roll moments of the night. Even without the rest of My Morning Jacket, James commands the stage and led the band through an awesome set of music. Patti Smith started off performing the poetry of Allan Ginsberg while Glass accompanied on piano. She closed the show with the rest of the performers, performing an all-star version of 'People Have The Power'.
The Tibet House have accomplished a great feat in this, the 23rd year of this benefit. They've managed to keep the culture of Tibet alive in the face of adversity over two decades after they realized the issue. Bringing this culture and music to one of the world's grandest stages, accompanied by not only legendary musicians but some young up and comers too, is the perfect way to continue these traditions. If not for anything else, the Tibet House Benefit is the perfect excuse to spend an evening in Carnegie Hall – make sure you keep an eye out for it next year, as it is a great event to be a part of.
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