The 32nd annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert was held on February 7th to a sold-out audience.
The event, which has been captivating audiences for over three decades, was created to support the Tibet House US. Founded in 1987, the nonprofit institution was created at the request of the Dalai Lama to provide the continued preservation of Tibet’s rich cultural history. Amidst the opulence and cultural heritage of Carnegie Hall, the event played host to a diverse range of celebrated artists. Composer Philip Glass, who once again served as the artistic director for the event, explained to the crowd that “everyone who plays here is a gift.” A gift, indeed, with a stellar lineup that included the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, New Order’s Bernard Sumner, Jon Batiste, and Nathanial Rateliff, to name a few.
A group of Tibetan monks opened the show with a traditional chant, and as their six voices became one, a profound resonance was created, one powerful enough to raise the consciousness of the room and set the stage for a night of memorable performances. The first artist to take the stage was avant-pop artist Laurie Anderson, accompanied by celebrated cellist Rubin Kodheli. Anderson dedicated her composition to her teacher, Tibetan Buddhist lama Mingyur Rinpoche, who taught her that “everything is love.” A highlight of her set was her leading the audience in a collective scream, inspired by Yoko Ono‘s social media reaction to Trump’s 2017 election.
Tibetan musician Tenzin Choeyal lightened the mood with a melodic and enchanting rendition of his song, “Heartstrings”, backed exquisitely by The Scorchio Quartet (who also joined Debbie Harry, New Order and Jon Batiste later performances). Chris Robinson and Neal Casal of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood added a little swagger to the event with “California Hymn”, invoking the roots-rock majesty of The Band.
Jason Isbell followed with a striking departure from his typical repertoire, trading in his typical folksy ballads for an experimental instrumental guitar set. Debbie Harry, sporting a cape that read “Stop Fucking the Planet,” performed a haunting deconstruction of her hit, “Heart of Glass”, with support by Philip Glass on piano. The Patti Smith Band performed The Rolling Stones’ “I’m Free”, featuring teases of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”. Members of New Order, including Bernard Sumner, roused the audience with “Ceremony,” “Love Vigilantes” and a cover of David Bowie’s
Be My Wife”.
Standouts of the evening included Nathaniel Rateliff and Jon Batiste‘s rollicking cover of Sam & Dave‘s ‘Hold On, I’m Comin'”, Patti Smith’s spoken-word “Prophecy’s Lullaby” into Midnight Oil‘s
“Beds Are Burning” (which had the audience dancing in their seats), a stunning two-song piano set by the ever-adroit Jon Batiste, and Stephen Colbert‘s surprisingly sober reading of Allen Ginsberg‘s poem, “Birdbrain”, accompanied by Glass on piano. African artist Angelique Kidjo, dubbed by TIME magazine as “Africa’s premier diva,” ended the night with her stunning vocal range, leading a boisterous group finale of Talking Heads‘ “Once in a Lifetime”.
Below, you can view a gallery of photos from the event courtesy of photographer Jeremy Gordon.
For more information about Tibet House, head here.