Jason Isbell, Patti Smith, Nathaniel Rateliff & More Among Tibet House 2019 Benefit Concert Highlights

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On Thursday night, the historic Carnegie Hall in New York City hosted the 32nd Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert. Proceeds from the show went towards supporting the work of Tibet House US and its mission of protecting, preserving and empowering the Tibetan culture. Jason Isbell, Patti Smith, Nathaniel Rateliff, Jon Batiste, Chris Robinson and Debbie Harry were among those who performed with Philip Glass serving as musical director. Here’s a look at six highlights from the exceptional evening:

Jason Isbell Debuts Experimental Project

Thursday marked Jason Isbell’s seven-year sober date. “In order to continue to challenge myself, I’ll be performing an experimental guitar set, not my usual songs,” Isbell wrote on Twitter about what he had in store for his portion of the concert. Jason came through the challenge with flying colors. He played a Les Paul and was accompanied by a pre-recorded drum track. Isbell shredded wild and psychedelic riffs over the beat for a performance that left many jaws agape. The Alabama native went outside his comfort zone and treated attendees to an awe-inspiring, improvisation-heavy “song.” Here’s hoping there’s more where that came from.

Patti Smith Covers Neil Young & Midnight Oil

Patti Smith is a regular at Tibet House benefits but she went an unusual route for her song selections. After reading poetry, she led her band through a gorgeous rendition of Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush.” Smith followed with an inspired reworking of Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning.” Both performances were vintage Patti and had some in the crowd on their feet, which was impressive considering most in the capacity crowd were glued to their seats until the end of the three-hour concert.


Chris Robinson & Neal Casal Team With Members Of Patti Smith Band

What was billed as a Chris Robinson Brotherhood performance turned into something much more. Robinson went without the members of his band with the exception of guitarist Neal Casal. Instead, he was backed by the Patti Smith Band for riveting takes on CRB originals “Forever As The Moon” and “California Hymn.” Both songs were so tight, I’m sure some in the crowd thought the assembled musicians were Robinson’s normal band.

Stephen Colbert Recites Allen Ginsberg Poem Accompanied By Philip Glass

Comedian Stephen Colbert was on the lineup, leading some to wonder what he’d have in store for his portion of the evening. Colbert read Allen Ginsberg’s thought-provoking and perfect-for-the-times poem “Birdbrain” as Glass provided musical accompaniment. Each line of the poem had deep meaning and Colbert perfectly paced his recital of “Birdbrain.”


Nathaniel Rateliff Covers Springsteen & Sam And Dave

Nathaniel Rateliff was one of only two artists last night who performed three songs. He made the most of his appearance by starting with a solo take on his own “Still Out There Running.” Rateliff was then backed by the Patti Smith Band for an emotional cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” For his finale, Nathaniel brought out Batiste for a celebratory take on Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming.”

Debbie Harry Reimagines “Heart Of Glass”

Harry was a late addition to the lineup after Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price pulled out. The Blondie vocalist turned “Heart Of Glass” into a stirring and mesmerizing piece in which she was joined by the Scorchio Quartet. This was a “Heart Of Glass” like no other and was absolutely stunning. Harry gets extra credit for sporting a jacket which read, “Stop Fucking The Planet.”


Angélique Kidjo Leads Grand Finale

There’s a reason Angelique Kidjo was the final performer of the evening, as she gave such an energetic and emotional performance of the Swahili song “Malaika” that no musician would want to be the one to follow her. Kidjo was a whirl of motion and won herself plenty of new fans last night. The concert concluded with a grand finale of the Talking Heads classic “Once In A Lifetime” sung by Kidjo and featuring most of the artists on the bill. At this point, nearly everyone in the audience was on their feet having witnessed a “once in a lifetime” night of music.

Setlist

Monks; Bob Thurman Remarks; Philip Glass Remarks; Laurie Anderson: Screaming; Tenzin Choegyal: Heartstrings; Chris Robinson & Co.: Forever As The Moon, California Hymn; Jason Isbell: Improvisation; Nathaniel Rateliff: Still Out There Running, Atlantic City, Hold On I’m Coming; Philip Glass: Etude #10; Patti Smith: After The Gold Rush, Beds Are Burning; Patti Smith Band: I’m Free; New Order: Love Vigilantes, Ceremony, Be My Wife; Debbie Harry: Heart Of Glass; Stephen Colbert: Birdbrain; Jon Batiste: Opening, Don’t Stop; Angélique Kidjo: Malaika; Finale: Once In A Lifetime