Special Thanks to Robert Thurman and Philip Glass for promoting public awareness of ‘Trouble in Tibet’.

Tibet House Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City. February ...
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Review, Photos & Video: Tibet House Benefit Concert At Carnegie Hall

Feb 23, 2016 7:06 am PST By Chad Berndston

Tibet House Benefit Concert :: 2.22.16 :: Carnegie Hall :: New York City

The annual Tibet House Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall recalls Duke Ellington’s famous saying about good music and “the other kind.” We get hung up on genre and “right fit” and for what? Philip Glass and Friends see as foundational the idea that Carnegie Hall can be the setting for an utterly entrancing evening of music that features no less than Iggy Pop, Basia Bulat, Sharon Jones, Patti Smith’s band, Gogol Bordello, FKA twigs, the brilliant Korean harpist Lavinia Meijer and the kora master Foday Musa Soso, all sharing a bill that might feel like a hipstery stunt anywhere else, yet here, felt 100 percent logical.
Such is the power of the Tibet House Concert, an institution of the New York music-going calendar well into its third decade. What made the 26th installment so potent was not only the perfumers involved, but also the pacing. Each performance had moments of wonder and delight — you wanted more from everyone, but the point was that you spent a few passing moments in little worlds created by the chosen participants, and then you returned, better for it. The Tibet House Concert, more than most genre-shuffling events of its size and renown, doesn’t manufacture “moments” or awkward collaborations so much as let its musicians find the natural threads they share.
Photo by Jeremy Gordon

After the traditional Tibetan monk chant to open, and welcome remarks from Tibet House US President Robert Thurman and Philip Glass himself, Basia Bulat was first up, accompanying herself with a ukulele on “It Can’t Be You”and then combining with harpist Meijer for “Someday Soon” (one of several unannounced moments of collaborative lagniappe during the set). The Canadian singer’s music has a spooky, ethereal quality, but not a twee one — Meijer seemed to feel the heft in it and focused on harp flourishes that had a bit of sting in it, making the music more interesting instead of merely prettying it up.
The next series of collaborations, which involved Meijer, Glass himself on piano, and Suso on kora in various solo, duo and trio formats, achieved a deeply hypnotic effect, relying on the Carnegie’s acoustics to ring every nuance out of every string pluck. (It was possible to float away in Meijer’s own solo showcase, “Metamorphosis No. 2,” and its far-off-land of a loose melody.)
Sharon Jones was up next, and backed by Patti Smith’s regular band, turned the distant and mysterious vibe of the show thus far into a down-home cabaret. Strutting through “She Ain’t A Child No More,” “Tell Me” and “100 Days, 100 Nights” she worked the stage like Cab Calloway — or rather, like we’re used to from Jones, with her sultry confidence and the hint of danger in her swagger.
Dechen Shak-Dagsay sings Tibetan Buddhist mantras in a way that’s proudly traditional and also intensely of the moment, and after Jones, she delivered “Everest” and “Black Tara” accompanied by a soaring ensemble: Helge Van Dyk on piano and other sounds, and a host of other musicians — including Tibet House staples the Scorchio Quintet — on everything from strings to guitars to percussion.
Photo by Jeremy Gordon

It was yet another testament to the genre-defying dynamics of the show, and in a way, the yang to Shak-Dagsay’s yin was the always-welcome Gogol Bordello, which played mostly acoustic but tore through “My Companjera,” “When the Universes Collide” and “Pala Tute” with such celebratory abandon that Eugene Hutz and company ditched their stools and rocked the middle of the Carnegie stage like it was last call at a hoedown.
Between them had come FKA Twigs, the British singer and dancer who with her three-piece band of guitar and percussion played two gorgeous tunes, “Hide” and “Good to Love” that rejected all attempts at easy classification beyond what might be called experimental R&B.
Photo by Jeremy Gordon

Iggy was last, and was he ever. Dressed in a well-tailored blue suit and introduced by Glass with the absolutely on-point, “Ladies and gentlemen, Iggy Pop,” Iggy threw a couple of curveballs, opening with a pair of spoken word pieces — accompanied by Glass and Suso for one, and the ever-present Scorchio foursome for another — that fell some place among jazz-nook poetry, Berlin-era Lou Reed and Iggy’s own force-of-nature persona. Read out of context, his would be described as the most bizarre performance. But in the home stretch of a show like this, he read the vibe of the room exactly right, tugging at emotions in an unexpected way, and then, seeing that the room was ready to explode with jittery energy, calling back the Patti band for a roughed-up to salute to David Bowie.

First came “Jean Genie” — and a bunch of security guards who quickly stopped trying to quiet the standers and dancers, they too read the room. Then came “Tonight,” described by Pop as having a deceptively simple lyric, and for which most of the night’s performers, including FKA twigs, Jones, Meijer and Shak-Dagsay returned. This was the coolest, hippest super jam you’d ever seen; it was planned, it was choreographed, and yet it felt like neither, completely alive. This institution of a concert is what it is precisely because of moments like that – and which would happen nowhere else.


Tibetan Monks
Traditional Chant
Basia Bulat
It Can’t Be You, Someday Soon (w/Lavinia Meijer, harp)
Foday Musa Suso
Traveler (w/Lavinia Meijer, harp and Philip Glass, piano), Badigyan, Tamala (w/Lavinia Meijer)
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 and others
Everest, Black Tara
FKA twigs
Hide, Good to Love
Gogol Bordello
My Companjera, When the Universes Collide (w/Scorchio Quartet, strings), Pala Tute
Iggy Pop
I Talked to a Smart Guy (w/Foday Musa Suso, kora, and Philip Glass, piano), Mom and Dad Are Gone (w/Scorchio Quartet, strings), Jean Genie (w/Patti Smith Band), Tonight (w/Patti Smith Band and most of the evening’s performers)

About the AuthorAvatar for Chad Berndston

Chad Berndston

Chad Berndtson is a JamBase Managing Editor and writes about music and technology for various publications. He lives in New York; drop him a line at cberndtson[at]gmail[dot]comGo See Live Music

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