Lou Reed, Das Racist, Stephin Merritt, Antony and the Johnsons, Laurie Anderson
Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall, NYC, Feburary 13, 2012, February 13th, 2012
Feb 29, 2012
New York City's fabled Carnegie Hall hosted the 22nd annual Tibet House Benefit, with curation once again courtesy of composer Philip Glass, who's been involved with the Tibetan cause since 1966. The event was at its most eclectic this year, featuring the likes of Das Racist, Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt, Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, Laurie Anderson, and Anderson's husband Lou Reed.
The evening kicked off, as it always has, with solemn intonations by monks from the Drepung Gomang Monasteries. Anderson opened the musical portion of the show with a hilariously sinister spoken-word piece about a Buddhist retreat in Utah, titled "The Green River," which segued nicely into a lovely collaboration with Hegarty on "Progress," his shivering vibrato reverberating through the opulent venue.
The proceedings were graceful, if a tad somnolent, until Das Racist took the stage. A fiery, irreverent rendition of "Michael Jackson" certainly woke the crowd up like a cold splash of water to the face. Himanshu Suri relished the experience, wildly gesturing at the venue's house orchestra as he feigned conducting, while Victor Vazquez skulked about the stage with feral abandon, and Ashok Kondabalou performed some herky-jerky interpretative dance moves belying the lost doe in the headlights look in his eyes.
Stephin Merritt followed, performing an acoustic rendition of "This Little Ukelele" from the Eban & Charlie soundtrack, flowing seamlessly into a gorgeous reading of 69 Love Songs highlight "The Book of Love," replete with orchestral backing, culminating with "Andrew in Drag," the first single from the upcoming Magnetic Fields album Love at the Bottom of the Sea.
Along with the aforementioned Das Racist set, the evening's other highlight was a short yet powerful performance by Lou Reed. Playing with an ad hoc band, and seemingly unrehearsed, cuing the orchestra with sporadic gesticulations, Reed nonetheless dazzled, playing roughshod yet transfixing versions of "The Raven" and "Who Am I?," before concluding with an incendiary take on The Velvet Underground's "I'm Beginning to See the Light" from their epochal 1969 eponymous album. This rendition was galvanized by accompaniment from the Patti Smith Group, including guitarist and famed Nuggets curator Lenny Kaye, who earlier had performed a medley of covers from his garage-rock holy grail.
The evening closed with the entire night's line-up joining forces on an elongated jam coda for "I'm Beginning to See the Light." The sing-along was in lieu of perennial Tibet benefit closer, Patti Smith's "People Have the Power," foregone as Smith couldn't be at the event due to prior obligations. Yet the classic Velvets' number tapped into the regenerative power of rock music in a sublime manner not dissimilar to Smith's holistic call-to-action classic. And with the entire night's cast harmonizing on the tune's refrain of "How does it feel to be loved?," the overriding ethos of the event was articulated--a steadfast commitment to the aesthetic, and a denouncement of repression, with a heightened consciousness recognizing that even the quietest of voices should count as much as the loudest shout.
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