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The Tibet House US 33rd Annual Benefit Concert Iron Mouse Year at Carnegie Hall, Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 Reviewed

The Tibet House 33rd Annual Benefit Concert was a lesson in reassessment. I haven’t liked Patti Smith in twenty years but one of her best second act songs, the Kurt Cobain memento mori “About A Boy”  in celebration of what would have been his 53rd birthday last week (FYI: Patti’s Gone Again is her second best release ever) was given a beautiful, deeply sad performance. I haven’t seen Patti live on stage since she opened for Bob Dylan in the 1990s, and have never heard “About A Boy” on stage, and it was both emotional, spine chilling, and completely valid. Another act I haven’t much liked in decades, Iggy Pop, also pulled a classic and destroyed us with it, the goth meets Glass string textual, tempo strapped “I Wanna Be Your Dog” built inexorably to a cheer from the audience as he reached “Now I wanna be your man”. I’d just panned (though not published) the Phoebe Bridgers single that dropped yesterday, “Garden Song,” and last year I laughed myself sick at the Matt Berninger and Phoebe single “Walking On A String,” meanwhile last night both songs were showstoppers and I am left wondering if it is me.

But let’s not jumpstart the show, which started at 740pm and ended more than two and a half hours later and discuss Tibet: for thousands of years various dynasties and outside powers (hi China, hi Mongolia) controlled the autonomous highest place on earth Tibet till 1950 when, in the wake of the Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong put the boot in. Tibet had been semi-autonomous with freedom to govern as they saw fit while following China’s foreign policy. Mao pulled a fast one in 1951  and made the Seventeen Point Agreement where delegates of the 14th Dalai Lama, sovereign of the de facto state of Tibet, reached an agreement in with the Central People’s Government of the newly established People’s Republic of China on affirming Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. The Dalai Lama hadn’t approved it and by 1959 was in exile. As for Tibet, President of Tibet House US Robert Thurman said in an opening speech that the country was under super-Surveillance since January 14th of this year. with  a single soldier for every single person living there: Shangri-la meets Siberia.

1950 was seventy years ago and while public opinion is clearly on the side of the peace loving Buddhist Monks and their brothers and sisters, and fighting China with violence would have resulted in carnage, world opinion will only get you so far and this despite President Trump back in December 2018 enacting a law punishing Chinese Officials who restrict access to Tibet c to Tibetan areas in China’s far west (according to the New York Times here). Take a peek at why we’re here:


Which leaves me after work, wandering around in the rain, killing time before the show, listening to Best Coast and remembering when I saw em at Governors Ball 2013 during a torrential downfall that ended the evening soon after, and Bethany Cosentino saying “Why do you live here? This fucking sucks…”. It fucking sucked so I popped a 25 milligram of THC gummy bear but even as I popped it, it looked large. It must have been 50M. By the time I was at my seat, the end of a horrendous hike to the top of the Mount Everest of Carnegie Hall  sections, the balcony, I was not at all well. I had the last seat in a row of ten and with only one exit, the way I came in. I was stuck and so sick I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to. The sightlines were practically non existent if I was well, it was entirely non existent when stoned out of my mind and I sat there paralyzed for the duration.

Give Tibet House this, it took em 33 years but they have definitely ironed out the immense kinks that afflicted the show 20 years prior. Speechifying kept to a minimum, no intermission, two and a half hours plus of music (I left during the singalong to “People Have The Power” -about the only time I saw the stage) , some Glass like sound manipulations, some Bettye LaVette tearing into “The Times They Are-A’Changing”. Laurie Anderson went all the way back to “From The AIr” and added a call and response “We don’t know what we are” and “This is the time” as she detailed a plane crash (“we are all going to die together” -thanks Laurie) with  (I believe -remember I can’t lift my head!) the Dalai Lama’s brother Tenzin Choegyal. Margo Price was there, and sounded gorgeous, sorry Jesse Paris Smith and brother Jackson Smith, but I didn’t notice you, Glass was exactly the same as every time I’ve ever seen him, and the first fifty minutes were slow yet lovely, actually perfect for my state of mind. Despite (or maybe because of) only performing three songs, Phoebe was much better than she was on the boygenius tour where Julien Baker was more emotive and Lucy Dacus was much livelier (I was at a niece’s wedding in the UK during the Better Oblivion Community Center concerts last year), the booming baritone The National’s Matt Berninger is always good live.  All in all, a tight, smart, indie, alty, punky, arty evening.

Tibet sure deserves something but what country has the moral power to provide it? And as avowed pacifists, they can’t seem to change things for themselves. Still, it has only been 70 years, if we all survive maybe Tibet’s slow and steady approach will eventually lead them to freedom. Writing about Palestine, I’ve always been bemused at the Palestinians lack of patience, take anything Israel gives you -especially that Camp David summit, come on guys, and wait your turn. Passive resistance is a long term strategy but at least Tibet has stayed away from the sort of atrocities that are bread and butter for the Commie bastards, at least they are living.

Finally, if you are going to next year’s performance don’t take 50MG of THC before you go, and if a ticket on Carnegie Hall’s website in the balcony (cheap though, $50 including handling fees) appears to be an aisle it ain’t necessarily so.  Tomorrow in Llasas…

Grade: B+

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