As Ray Davies and Debbie Harry took the stage at last night’s Tibet House benefit concert to lead the audience in an acoustic sing-along of “Lola,” members of the rapt crowd exchanged incredulous glances, doubting that the evening could could get any fucking cooler.
And then it did.
Michael Stipe and Patti Smith — just two of the heavyweights on hand to celebrate Tibetan culture at Carnegie Hall’s seventeenth annual shindig — launched into a rendition of “Everybody Hurts” that made everyone watching a little verklempt. But before anyone had time to wipe their eyes, Stipe unveiled “Chorus and the Ring,” a never-been-played-live tune inspired by a chat he had with William Burroughs about Kurt Cobain. Don’t you love it when pop culture comes full circle?
And so it went for two-and-a-half hours. One icon set the stage for the next — Harry introduced Davies as one of her “all-time idols” — and artists played stripped-down mini-sets that treated thirsty ears to killer one-off performances.
Highlights included Lou Reed’s curmudgeonly grumble on the pissed-off “Ecstasy,” Ben Harper — backed by a string quartet — belting out a mournful “Amen Omen” and Debbie Harry jamming on an unplugged “Heart of Glass.” Also awesome: Patti Smith paying homage to George Harrison (who would have turned sixty-four on February 25th) with a slow-burning “Within You, Without You.”
And then the motley crew of musicians stormed the stage for the finale, urging everyone out of their seats with Smith’s “People Have the Power.” No one dared to keep still.