By Roxy Silver
Check out our photo gallery of the concert.
When the divine lineup for last night’s One World Concert was announced last month, students immediately thought, “Holy Shit!”
Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome held one of Central New York’s biggest musical events in years on Tuesday. Common Ground for Peace’s One World Concert featured His Holiness the Dalai Lama followed by musical headliner Dave Matthews and a busload of famous performers from around the world. The mostly-student crowd of 24,000-plus got a rare glimpse of the world-famous spiritual leader followed by a multi-act musical experience.
Backstage, the Dalai Lama told a story about one of the artists (he didn’t know who it was) seeking wisdom — asking him how music affects the soul. He responded, “You’re asking the wrong person, I am not interested in music.” What His Holiness did encourage was to, as he put it, “use their artistry to make awareness and messages of peace.” He added, “They have the ability to send awareness and I think its very possible for them to reach millions of people.”
A little later, still backstage, the Dalai Lama talked about how important it was for today’s youth to have knowledge of the world. “I worry for you as a young student. Students need to make more awareness, especially about Tibet. This I think is very important,” he said. “The One World tour is brought to universities in hopes to spread awareness of peace to the next generation.” Whatever his concerns, at least there’s no way this visit flew under anyone’s radar at SU; packaging His Holiness with a blowout concert is hardly subtle.
Hearing Dave Matthews, the man who took the stage next, as a presenter was an interesting change-of-pace; we don’t often hear our rock idols step out from behind their instruments. Next, the Dalai Lama surprised the audience with his wit and humor, sticking with the sentiments of the statements he made backstage. He seemed quite relatable, and not lofty, as one might expect.
After that, musicians gathered on stage for a group rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” While the song choice was a little obvious, it was lyrically perfect. Lennon would have been thrilled at the powerful moment of unity.
And then, let the games begin. Having digested a good dose of spirituality, the crowd was ready to rock. Dave Matthews returned to the stage and offered up a four-song set. The audience members were reserved at first, maybe with His Holiness’ soothing words still on their minds, but they eventually reverted to normal concert behavior — singing along, dancing in the aisles; the whole shebang. Matthews selected songs with relevant messages, like in his second song, “Mercy,” in which he says, “Stand up for what we need to be.” The set was short and sweet by design; a number of diehard Dave fans left the building as he left the stage. “I wish the headliners like Dave Matthews would have had more stage time to perform. It gave me a taste of something I enjoyed, but I wasn’t full when he exited the stage. I was hungry for more,” said SU student Kyle Basedow.
The remainder of the concert was hit-or-miss. It’s tough to keep up an energy level when talent and sets are changing every few minutes. Most of the performers were backed up by Don Was and his All-Star Band; Was is an accomplished producer and performer.
Notable performances included Natasha Bedingfield, who got the entire crowd standing and singing along to “Unwritten.” When she left the stage after her one song, the audience wanted more. Backstage, Bedingfield said about the night: “I feel as much as I am going to be giving tonight, I am going to be receiving. There are some incredible artists singing tonight.”
American Idol winner Philip Phillips did a great job with his hit “Home,” and then pop singer Andy Grammer got intimate with the audience when he jumped offstage and into the crowds of people. Cyndi Lauper and David Crosby followed with solid performances that affirmed their reputations as industry icons.
Other artists like A.R. Rahman and Nelly Furtado were a little bit underwhelming; due in part to production challenges, their performances were boring and understated. One major lowlight was rapper Nas, a headliner, pulled a complete no-show. Finally, the show closed with Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows in an overly-dramatic 20-minute set.
But issues aside, the crowd seemed pleased overall. “I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be in the same room as the Dalai Lama and such accomplished musicians at the same time. I think the night was filled with culture, diversity and most of all peace,” said SU student Dana Rogers.
Thousands of fans got to hear words of wisdom and a feast of diverse live music acts. Dave Matthews, who did most of the heavy lifting as the biggest musical draw for the night, didn’t disappoint. The considerable task of coordinating all of the acts had some effect on the flow of the show, but for the most part it was acceptable. The overall success of the event will hopefully set the stage for similar events in the near future.