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Bowie Rocks Carnegie Hall

AS the rarefied air of the Himalayas gives low-landers a heady high, the music performed at Carnegie Hall to celebrate Tibet's New Year - and to protest the Chinese armed occupation of that tiny mountain country - was equally intoxicating. David Bowie fell to earth lending a hand to Monday night's musical variety show that also featured Dave Matthews, Moby, Emmylou Harris, Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Natalie Merchant and a barrel of Tibetan monks. There was rock 'n' roll - but no one would confuse this with a rock show. The tenor of the performance was set by Pakistan's Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a master of qawwali, the musical component of Sufism. He sang in a language few at this concert knew but all seemed to understand. With incredibly swift vocal dexterity, Fateh Ali Kahn flipped the music's meter amid musical phrases and modulated his voice with precise point-to-point jumps within his multi-octive range. The evening's surprise guest, Dave Matthews, whose "Everyday" album was released yesterday, definitely felt the pressure of taking the stage after Fateh Ali Khan. Obviously blown away by the Sufi singer's skill, Matthews - armed with only an acoustic six-string guitar - drawled the obvious question: "How do I follow that?" He made the best of it with "The Stone" ( a song that is almost as rhythmically complex as a qawwali composition) and the title track to "Everyday." Matthews' down-home-even-in-Carnegie-Hall attitude was refreshingly casual for this kind of event, and it made his slot especially memorable. Clearly, Bowie was the Everest of this musical mountain range. He looked sharp in a purple long-coat, the traditional amber Tibetan scarf and black stove-pipe pants. While his first selection, "Heroes," was very fitting both for Tibet's freedom fight and the spirit of the benefit concert, his second selection, "Silly Boy Blue" - a minor rock song he wrote in '68 - was odd. Making it odder, but better, was the bass grind of monk singers who joined Bowie in the final bars of the piece. By DAN AQUILANTE (nypost.com)
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