My vote for the weirdest live album of all time? It's gotta be this benefit album for Healing the Divide, a nonprofit foundation founded by Richard Gere, the proceeds of which will go to providing health insurance for Tibetan nuns and monks in exile. After Gere's brief intro, His Holiness the Dalai Lama comes on, does about a minute of untranslated Tibetan talk (and mind you, this is Lincoln Center in New York City!), before an interpreter jumps in. Then, after a minute of back and forth, big DL addresses us in English ... which he could've done all along! Getting tricked by the Dalai Lama doesn't feel so great. Neither does finding out he's not even hanging around for the entire show because he's got to get up early for work tomorrow. Yeah, right! At 3:30! Who hasn't used that exit line before? It's like someone skipping out of his own birthday party.
Then we plunge into the bullfrog tones of the Gyuto Tantric Choir followed by Anoushka Shankar, Ravi's less commercial daughter. Remember The Concert for Bangladesh? How rock fans were miffed that Ravi's half hour ragas were getting in the way of the rockin'? Well, after Gyuto Tantric Choir, Anoushka's 12-minute sitar solo sounds like a hit single. More pleasant sounds follow, courtesy of Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet, before we get to the real meat and potatoes of the setfour songs from Tom Waits, who suggests the only reason he got asked to do this gig was that soprano Jessye Norman cancelled once again. "And frankly I'm getting pretty tired of it," he grumbles. In fact, perhaps the real reason Dalai Lama split early was so he'd be spared from having to react to Tom's wicked "God's Away on Business."
Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].