2001-2002: THE TIBET HOUSE BENEFITS & THE CONCERT FOR NYC

Musicians (Tibet House Benefit Concerts):

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica

  • Philip Glass: Piano

  • Tony Visconti: Bass

  • Sterling Campbell: Drums

  • Martha Mooke, Gregor Kitzis, Meg Okura, Mary Wotten: Scorchio Quartet

  • Moby: Guitar (2001 concert only)

  • Adam Yauch: Bass (2002 concert only)

  • David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt, Jennifer Culp: Kronos Quartet (2002 concert only)

Musicians (The Concert For New York City):

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Omnichord

  • Mark Plati: Guitar

  • Gail Ann Dorsey: Bass

  • Paul Shaffer: Keyboards

  • Sid McGinnis: Guitar

  • Will Lee: Bass

  • Anton Fig: Drums

  • Felicia Collins: Guitar, Percussion

  • Tom Malone/Bruce Kapler/Al Chez: Horns

  • Nikki Richards/Elaine Caswell/Curtis King: Backing Vocals

Repertoire:

"Heroes" | Silly Boy Blue | People Have The Power | America | I Would Be Your Slave | Space Oddity

David Bowie with Tony Visconti performing at the Tibet House Benefit Concert, Carnegie Hall, February 26th 2001

Following his appearance at the Yahoo! Awards on July 24th 2000, Bowie retreated from the limelight to work on Toy and to devote time to his domestic life. His only high-profile appearance for the remainder of the year was at the VH1 Fashion Awards at Madison Square Garden on October 20th, where he presented Stella McCartney with the "Fashion Designer Of The Year" award.

In January 2001, news began to filter through that Bowie was to perform at the Tibet House Benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall, marking his first appearance at the famous venue since the 1970s. "I'll be doing a couple of songs with both Moby and Philip Glass," David revealed, whetting fans' appetites for the renewal of two of his more stimulating collaborative relationships. Before becoming the darling of the chill-out club scene with the global success of his album Play, Moby had remixed Bowie's 1997 single "Dead Man Walking", while David's previous work with Philip Glass encompassed not only the Low and "Heroes" symphonies but also a live appearance at Carnegie Hall way back in 1979.

The concert on February 26th, in aid of the Tibet House Trust which had previously benefited from such projects as the 1997 album Long Live Tibet, was a more cutting-edge affair than the average charity bash, and was adjudged a great success by critics and fans alike. "It has a low profile," David noted approvingly in an interview for Newsday. "Given the nature of the artists, it sells out, but it's not a trumpet-blowing thing. It's a very comfortable situation." Performers included Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris, Natalie Merchant, Dave Matthews, and Pakistan's qawwali master Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Bowie's brief two-song set came a little over an hour into the proceedings, his reunion with Moby and Glass rendered even more exciting by the appearance of Tony Visconti on bass - the first time he had shared a stage with David since the days of Hype over thirty years earlier. With additional string backing by the Scorchio Quartet, Bowie's set consisted of his customary benefit-gig classic "Heroes" and, by way of acknowledging both the Tibetan theme of the evening and his recent studio sessions, an extraordinarily beautiful revival of his 1966 number "Silly Boy Blue". At the song's climax a troupe of monks from the Drepung Gomang Buddhist Monastic University swelled the sound with chants and percussion, in what Rolling Stone later described as "the most moving moment of the evening". The concert ended with Patti Smith leading the assembled company in an energetic performance of her 1988 song "People Have The Power", during which she pulled David over to her microphone for a spirited duet.

Bowie had announced beforehand that this would be his only live date of 2001, but events were to dictate otherwise. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, David was characteristically quick to rally his online community. "Life here will continue," he told BowieNet members on September 12th. "New Yorkers are a resilient and fast thinking people. In this way they really do resemble my own Londoners. They came together quickly in massive community support and silent determination." When it was announced that Madison Square Garden would play host to a major benefit concert, the presence of rock music's foremost New Yorkers was a foregone conclusion. Sure enough the show, which took place on October 20th 2001 before an audience consisting mainly of FDNY officers and other rescue workers, was a star-studded affair featuring Jon Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, The Who, Macy Gray, Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and a host of Hollywood stars. There was even a sequence of short films celebrating the spirit of New York, donated by the likes of Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. David undertook the challenge of opening the concert, which he chose to do in unexpected but charming style with a pared-down interpretation of Simon and Garfunkel's "America", which he performed sitting cross-legged in a pool of light, accompanying himself on a low-tech 1980s Omnichord keyboard. Thereafter the lights came up for an inevitable but wonderfully impressive "Heroes", for which David was joined by Mark Plati on guitar, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, and the concert's eleven-piece house band, billed as "The Orchestra For New York City" (trivia buffs will note that they included Never Let Me Down guitarist Sid McGinnis and Tonight/Black Tie White Noise backing vocalist Curtis King). For the first time in many moons Bowie was backed on stage by a full horn section, and on this occasion the results were superb. The Concert For New York City was broadcast live on America's VH1, with edited highlights later screened by CBS and other stations. A double CD of the concert appeared the next month, with a DVD following in 2002.

On February 22nd 2002 Bowie performed once again at the Tibet House Benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, this time sharing the bill with Ray Davies, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, and newcomers Chocolate Genius, who opened the show with an acoustic rendition of "Soul Love". Bowie began his own set with a dramatic premiere of the Heathen composition "I Would Be Your Slave", accompanied by Tony Visconti, Sterling Campbell and the Scorchio Quartet. Then came an unexpected and sumptuous orchestration of "Space Oddity" (David's first performance of the number since his fiftieth birthday concert five years previously), for which Philip Glass played piano and Adam Yauch took over on bass, while Visconti conducted the assembled strings of the Scorchio and Kronos Quartets. Rolling Stone described the result as "stunning". Once again, Bowie and his band joined Patti Smith at the end of the evening for a final encore of "People Have The Power".

The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg

The Complete David Bowie

by Nicholas Pegg

New Edition: Expanded and Updated

"This is the best Bowie reference book one could ever hope for"

Tony Visconti

Iman with David Bowie at the Tibet House Benefit concert February 26th 2001
David Bowie performing at the Tibet House Benefit concert February 26th 2001