Songs For the Dalai Lama @ Burswood Dome, Perth (19/06/2011)

For the end of the Dalai Lama’s tour of Australia, someone had the bright idea of holding a concert to showcase some of Australia’s best musicians. The theme of the day was Sharing A Common Journey , reflected by the uniting power of music. It was an exciting day, first of all everyone was excited to hear what the Dalai Lama had to say and then excited to hear what some of Australia’s favourite musicians would choose to play for their 25 minute sets.

Before the Dalai Lama spoke, we were treated to a taste of Tibetan music. First of all was Tenzin Choegyal, who exuded warmth through his beaming smile and willingness to share his traditional style music. His is an amazing story and the audience were privileged to have experienced his music.

Next was the utterly bizarre The Nobel Funk Off. Somehow a group of look-alikes have found each other with the hopes of creating a “peace anthem” that might catch on. What was impressive was the uncanny resemblance they held – there was Barack “Attack” Obama, “Go-Go” Gandhi, Bono “T-Bone”, Nelson-The-Man-dela, “Mother T”, the “Diddy” Lama, Martin Luther “The” King and Mikhail Gorbachev. Host Adam Hills later joked that over the security walky talkies someone was heard asking “is Barack Obama visiting today?”. It was just quite strange, these world leaders (and Bono) mostly miming onstage with only Martin Luther and Bono doing any singing.

The Gyuto Monks of Tibet were a delight to have the pleasure to see, with their traditional throat chanting. They were very out of place in the concrete dominance of the Burswood Dome but they managed to almost put the audience in a trance for a good 20 minutes. In the end they were shooed off which didn’t seem like any way to treat a monk but the show must go on apparently. The depth of the voices were quite amazing and it is obviously a skill they’ve perfected over many, many years.

Then it was time for His Holiness to come and have a word about the theme “sharing a common journey”. First of all the musicians gathered onstage to listen to his speech, and Wazza Jones performed a powerful welcome to country including a traditional aboriginal song related to the giving and receiving of energy as talked about in Buddhist teaching, which was a moving way to show the universality of what the Dalai Lama is about. The Dalai Lama made a very short comment on a shared journey of positivity and never giving up. Unfortunatly for those who did not attend the earlier event, His Holiness stated he did not want to repeat himself as he was tired and we would get bored. So whilst he did not speak at great length he gave off an energy of positivity, warmth and playful cheekiness, making jokes and obviously enjoying what was happening around him. Luka Bloom who has been touring with His Holiness played a song dedicated to Tibet and he and the other musicians were presented with Tibetan scarves. His holiness left the stage with the framed song translated into Tibetan.

Then it was time for Adam Hills to shine. From this point on he came on between each set to entertain the crowd whilst things were being set up. Hills is a born story-teller and entertainer and whilst he may appear forced sometimes on his television programs the stories just rolled off the tongue throughout the day. From inciting a young 10 year old boy to impersonate James Brown to telling stories of when he met the queen, only to be more excited to meet a pizza shop owner he had the audience chuckling and sticking around for each proceeding artist. Hills would be a welcome addition to any music festival to keep the entertainment and happiness flowing.

Luka Bloom came back onstage to perform his balladeering songs that he takes very seriously. He appeared an obvious choice to tour with the Dalai Lama as he draws attention to injustices in the world ( I Am Not At War With Anyone ), about the importance of forgiveness ( Miracle Cure ) and human compassion ( I’ll Walk Beside You ). His nephew Connor Byrne joined him onstage to play flute on You Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time. Whilst other artists may dilly dally with putting their face to a cause, Bloom obviously lives his message.

Katie Noonan’s Elixir Trio were next and showcased Noonan’s amazingly beautiful vocals. They were very similar in vocal melody to her old outfit George with similar melodic progressions. First Seed Ripening was about the beauty of pregnancy, with the lyrics written by poet Thomas Shapcott. Whilst Elixir are beautiful melodically, with Noonan’s voice incomparable to any other plus saxophonist Zac Hurren and award winning guitarist Stephan Magnusson providing such pure, perfect tonalities, lyrically they are slightly unattainable. One feels the need to go home and study the lyrics to truly understand what Noonan is singing about which unfortunately makes difficult the emotional connection to the sounds.

Old Man River was his usual over-cheery self and whilst some audience members truly bopped out others felt a bit uncomfortable about how happy this man is. Even after seeing the Dalai Lama, Old Man River just seems to be on another planet of smug joy, eliciting mixed reactions from the crowd. He played some regular favourites and had a few bopping in their seats.

Lior was next and managed to woo some of the ladies in the crowd with his cool and casual good looks. He first of all played Satisfied Mind written by John Martin, with some impressive riffs on his blues guitar. Then the string quartet arrived to add some lovely backing to some old and new songs, including Autumn Flow, Grey Ocean, Daniel, new song If I Lost Your Love and of course This Old Love. Nothing could really be faulted in his set and this felt like a turning point in the day as there were only great performances to come.

Who doesn’t like Adalita? Her powerful voice and strength of character oozed offstage even in a stylish poncho. The first song played had a seriously bad mix with the guitar overpowering her vocal so much to aggravate the eardrums. Thankfully the problem was fixed for The Repairer and the guts and raw emotion of her voice rang throughout the Dome. This was a highlight of the day.

Lyrics Born was the most upbeat of all performers, even taking into consideration this was the first ever unplugged performance he’s ever done! His was the only set to get some of the crowd up and dancing with his enthusiastic persona along with his beautiful and sassy sidekick Joyo Velarde. They played a couple of new songs and some old favourites ( I Like It, I Love It and Callin’ Out ). Lyrics Born is a frequent visitor to this country but every time he comes we’re left wanting more.

Baby Animals were one of the most awaited bands, with various other performers singing the praises of Suze DeMarchi. Her charm is obvious but she appeared slightly blasé about the whole affair, possibly she was uncomfortable with the unplugged nature of the set. In any case her voice had a sultry power to it backed by the polished musicianship of the band. They played a few songs, some old some new in a nonchalant manner whilst their talent was exposed.

Tim Rogers was ever the cheeky charmer and this time had a beautiful cellist, Melanie Robinson as his accompanist. His charisma oozed offstage out of his maroon velvet suit and bushy graying mane. His set included Damage and Heavy Heart and some newer material also. The cello went soulfully into the mix and whilst it seemed odd when they arrived it worked just right. His self-deprecating humour got almost as many laughs as Hillsy’s stories.

Tex Perkins and The Dark Horses were a treat to see play live. Whilst Perkins has played under many guises, this band just seemed to have a certain magic and natural wonder that just felt right. It was quite a dark and serious set but the audience wanted so much more than just a few songs. What Do You Want Now was played first, with Everything Is Gonna Be Alright played last, or so we thought. As the otherwise tame audience shouted for more, the band played Getting Away With It which may have seemed slightly inappropriate after His Holiness talking of the power of forgiveness, but rogue Perkins joked really did have a positive message.

And so it was left to Adam Hills to say goodbye and the audience left feeling like they’d been in the presence of greatness – not only of the overwhelming positivity of the Dalai Lama but of some amazing musicians.