show recap: the 20th annual tibet house concert
  • MONDAY, MARCH 01, 2010

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Picture by Richard Perry/NY Times

At Carnegie Hall on Friday night the 20th installment of the Tibet House's concert series. This year's performers included Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, singer/songwriter Regina Spektor, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop.

The concert opened with a prayer led by the monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, after which The Tibet House's founder Columbia University Professor Robert Thurman welcomed the audience. Summing up the theme of the night, Thurman told the audience that "art gives our imaginations a jolt to see something different." He also stressed that the importance of the night was cultural and not political, saying "the politics will sort itself out."

The first performance of the night was Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew, a hip hop outfit that started in Sierra Leone, Africa. The crew melded traditional African-style vocals with hip hop swagger and funk instrumentals. By their third and final song the energy in the room was palpable, but after their set the mood became something more introspective with composer and Tibet House co-found Phillip Glass's set. The composer's work was most recently included in the film adaptation of Watchmen.

Glass played with several collaborators but mainly performed poly-rhythmic solo piano pieces. Continuing the quiet mood after Glass's short set were performances by the Irish singer Pierce Turner, the Scorchio string ensemble, a high schooler Tenzin Kunsel performing traditional Tibetan folk songs, and then finally Regina Spektor. In between songs she whispered to the audience and at one point worried about the lipstick on her nose ruining her first performance at Carnegie Hall.

Breaking up the more classical pieces of the night was Gogol Bordello, a band of self-processed gypsies who combine punk chords with Eastern European folk anthems. By the third song of their set the house lights were on an the entire crowd was dancing and clapping. Even though they played as a stripped down four piece they still couldn't help but play at maximum volume.

Between Gogol Bordello and the last set was a brief xylophone-driven interlude by Mike Campbell. After Campbell was Patti Smith and the Patti Smith band that opened with "Love Train". Smith proved she still could rock just as hard as ever, hucking a lougie on stage at one point. And as their set reached its climax and the crowd was in the aisles dancing, the chords shifted and the door at the back of the stage flung open. Iggy Pop came strolling out and launched into the lyrics of "The Passenger". He quickly tore off his shirt and reminded the crowd that no matter the class of the venue, he was still a punk.

After Iggy Pop's set every performer of the night came out (including the Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monstery) and sang the closing song, which was a really incredible sight. In the last song it was clear that the point of the whole night was music and art that didn't have regional or generational boundaries, just something take comes from the human soul. On the stage hitting the last chorus were musicians from Africa, Eastern Europe, American, Tibet, and Ireland, and they were all singing together. And regardless of politics, they were all free.-Ryan Broderick

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