may all beings be happy: Tibet House Benefit 2007
Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert
Carnegie Hall, NYC
26 February, 2007
TONIGHT’S TIBET HOUSE HIGHLIGHTS:
5. Patti reading from Allen Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra” with Philip Glass on piano:
I lift my voice aloud,
make Mantra of American language now,
I here declare the end of the War!
4. Ray Davies and Debbie Harry duetting on “Lola”. It worked so seamlessly that it was though it was written for the two of them. Yeah, it was predictable, but Ray is a showman and it’s a benefit, he’s going to sing the songs that people know.
3. Ray singing a semi-accapella version of “Days” that was simultaneously otherworldly and heartbreaking. No one spoke. No one rustled a program. Even if people didn’t know who the fuck he was, the performance told them all they needed to know.
2. Michael Stipe debuting the first ever live performance of “Chorus and the Ring,” prefaced with a classic story about Kurt Cobain, William Burroughs and Karin Berg. [You can download a rehearsal version at murmurs.com.] *
1. Patti Smith and Michael Stipe duetting on “Everybody Hurts,” string section and all. If your jaw did not hit the floor the minute the song started, you’re either not human or you were just there to see Ben Harper (e.g. people sitting behind me). Michael sang it straight, but Patti was pure torch song.
Other minor notes:
Laurie Anderson: Too short and I suspect her set was a casualty of Sigur Ros, who I accept that I do not understand or like or enjoy, and were not needed on the bill. She presented Philip Glass with a shiny gold buddha as a consolation prize from the previous evening.
Lou Reed: God love Lou, but every time I see him in these situations he drags out the most obscure and inpenetrable numbers possible. You just wanna say, “Hey, Lou – there are people here who have never seen you. It’s a benefit. Just play ‘Walk On The Wild Side’.” Then again, god love Lou Reed, because he is obscure and inpenetrable. And I can’t believe Laurie let him out of the house wearing that jacket.
Ben Harper: always rises to the occasion (his Bridge School performance in 2001 was unbelievable) but out of his league here. Not his fault, see above.
Debbie Harry opened with a countrified number, which was perfectly acceptable. She was in excellent voice. I didn’t much care for the unplugged-ified “Heart of Glass” because it had no balls. Yes, the performance in the original is full of ennui, but that was deliberate and the music itself was daring, going outside the canon (as it were) at the time. The version tonight could have been piped through a dentist’s office.
Stipe solo: my first time seeing him without the band, and REALLY FUCKING WEIRD to see him sans R.E.M. Not bad weird, just – weird. He can absolutely command a stage, it’s just that in my mind the voice is connected with a certain context, which was missing. But he was dressed for the occasion and suitably nervous and I love seeing him with Patti onstage, dropping to his knees, same pose he adopted during Vote For Change when he was watching Bruce take a guitar solo.
Patti: needs to play more places that accommodate a grand piano, because she has someone who can play it. She continues to take “People Have The Power” and makes it stronger each and every time she performs it. It doesn’t get tired. It is never anything less than electric. She hopped off the stage, exhorted people to get on their feet, called for truth and no more war. If you didn’t have goosebumps, it’s probably because you thought you could leave after “Everybody Hurts”.
P.S. I didn’t forget about Patti Lee dedicating “Within You or Without You” (probably from the upcoming cover album – or, then again, who knows) to George Harrison, whose birthday was yesterday. But, with everything else that was going on, almost forgiveable if I did.
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