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The 25th Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall

Last night’s annual Tibet House Benefit Concert leaned on tradition, which was fitting, given the show’s illustrious 25-year run. The history-heavy theme began and ended with Philip Glass, who hosted the evening’s stretch of eclectic performances.

Philip Glass and his cousin Ira — known for his work on podcasts This American Life and Serial — paid homage to another familiar Tibet House Benefit face, Allen Ginsberg. In the middle of the show, Ira read a couple of Ginsberg’s poems while Philip played piano. Their rendition of the beloved anti-war poem Wichita Vortex Sutra spoke to the coexisting monstrosity of emotion and utter meaninglessness that Ginsberg felt when crossing Kansas, and what could be interpreted as the long plight of the country of Tibet that inspires the annual concert.

Another powerful reading, focused more on allowing oneself to dissipate into nothingness, was provided by Laurie Anderson, alongside the powerful humming chants of the magnificent Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal. Anderson sourced her words from a piece of literature most commonly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The show also incorporated some contemporary artists, many of whom included thoughtful nods to the past. The Flaming Lips, accompanied by Julianna Barwick’s angelic vocals and Philip Glass on guitar, played only covers, including renditions of “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles and “Warszawa” by David Bowie. Both interpretations felt wildly original with sediments of the songs’ original spirits at the core.

The concert closed with the most recognizable name coming to the stage, longtime Tibetan Benefit performer Patti Smith. She opened by reading an early birthday poem to the Dalai Lama, with her daughter on accompaniment on the piano. Smith went on to let loose with a long riff on the song Gandhi, before gathering everyone on stage for the evenings final performance.

As always, the show was comprised of an excellent balance of worldly and American musicians, with songs and performances throughout carrying both traditional and original elements. With all of these historical faces and sounds, the storied Carnegie Hall added an enveloping influence that tied together the evening’s undeniable magic.

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