The Year of the Iron Mouse began with a musical bang at Carnegie Hall, when Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Margo Price, Sandra Oh, Bettye LaVette, Tenzin Choegyal, Matt Berninger, Phoebe Bridgers, the Resistance Revival Chorus, and Laurie Anderson headlined the 33rd Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert. Philip Glass curated and led the concert. Proceeds from the concert supported the work of Tibet House US, a non-profit educational institution founded in 1987 at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to ensure the survival of Tibetan civilization and culture.
Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery opened the concert with sonorous invocation chants, followed by remarks from Tibet House US’ president, Bob Thurman, and vice president, Philip Glass. Thurman told the audience that Tibetans were living under intense military surveillance since January 14. Stewart Hurwood then performed an avant garde composition using various synthesizers.
Laurie Anderson, Jesse Paris Smith, and Tibetan exile Tenzin Choegyal performed with Rubin Kodheli from their collaborative album, Songs from the Bardo. Anderson also revisited her 1982 song “From the Air,” asking the audience to participate in a call and response “We don’t know what we are” and “This is the time.”
Born out of the Women’s March on Washington, the all-women Resistance Revival Chorus is a New York City-based collective of about 50 women who sing protest songs. Dressed in white, the women gathered in the back of Carnegie Hall and walked down the aisles and onto the stage, singing a cappella a timeless Chinese proverb affirming the interdependent natures of light, beauty, harmony, honor and peace.
Phoebe Bridgers, formerly of boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center, is now a solo performer. Playing acoustic guitar, she performed a live debut of “Garden Song” and “Scott Street” with a small band plus a string ensemble, the Scorchio Quartet. Matt Berninger of the National then joined her on stage to duet on the song they recorded together, “Walking on a String.” Bridgers then left the stage and Berninger performed two more songs, ending his set with a Mercury Rev cover.
Choeygal returned to the stage with Glass to perform a Tibetan song, “Snow Lion.”
Singing professionally since she was 16 years old and now well into her 70s, song stylist Bettye LaVette finally achieved national recognition in 2005. At the benefit concert, she re-interpreted songs originally written and performed by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Ray Charles.
Sandra Oh is a Canadian-American actress best known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve. Accompanied by Philip Glass on piano, Oh read beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “When the Light Appears.”
Country singer-songwriter Margo Price performed “Better Than Nothin'” for the first time. She was backed by members of the Patti Smith Band and Smith’s son, Jackson Smith.
Iggy pop recited “We Are the People,” which he derived from a poem written by Lou Reed in 1970. Laurie Anderson backed his performance. Pop then removed his sports jacket to reveal his bare chest and sang “I Wanna Be Your Dog”; the cello accompaniment was perhaps the oddest arrangement ever of the Stooges standard. The audience cheered when he writhed on the Carnegie Hall stage, threw his microphone, and then lifted and tossed aside his microphone stand.
Accompanied by her band, Patti Smith first paid tribute to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain with “About a Boy,” her first performance of the song since 2014. She then reminisced about the final days of Allen Ginsberg’s life, which inspired her next song, 1997’s “Don’t Say Nothin’,” which she had not performed live since 2011. Smith closed with her 1988 anthem, “People Have the Power,” a finale which brought all the artists back on the stage.
After the two and a half-hour concert, the performing artists and Tibet House supporters enjoyed a post-concert gala at the nearby Ziegfeld Ballroom.
Laurie Anderson & Rubin Kodhelo
- Selections from Songs from the Bardo
- Gee Whiz (with Philip Glass)
- This Is the Time Coda
Resistance Revival Chorus
- Where There Is Light in the Soul
- Garden Song
- Scott Street
- Walking on a String (with Phoebe Bridgers)
- Distant Axis
- Holes (Mercury Rev cover)
- Snow Lion (with Philip Glass)
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan cover)
- Isn’t It a Pity (George Harrison cover)
- They Call It Love (Ray Charles cover)
- When the Light Appears (Allen Ginsberg poem, with Philip Glass)
- It’s Better Than Nothing at Least
- I’d Die for You
- All American Made (with the Patti Smith Band)
- We Are the People (with Laurie Anderson)
- I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges song)
- About a Boy
- Don’t Say Nothing
- People Have the Power (with all performers)