One harmony: Star-studded concert promotes peaceful ideas to wrap up two-day symposium
Roberta Flack started the song slow, like any proper soul singer would.
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.”
As the quiet John Lennon-penned melody wove its gentle lyrics through the speakers, a cavalcade of superstar acts split harmonies with the jazz singer. On the One World Concert stage on Tuesday night, Flack may have been a dreamer, but she was far from the only one.
“Imagine all the people, living for today.”
Slowly, the entire ensemble meandered its way across the stage. The song that started with Lennon’s subtle tapestry of guitar chords and simple lyrics struck its crescendo in a thunderous cascade of harmonies.
“I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, sporting a bright orange Syracuse University visor, made the tongue-in-cheek claim that music didn’t much interest him. But that didn’t stop him from shaking hands and exchanging bows with the star-studded roster before leaving the stage, before the artists brought a crowd of 24,000 to its feet.
But perhaps Lama Tenzin Dhonden, peace emissary to the Dalai Lama, put it best when he said, “I think now it is time to rock.”
Dave Matthews riffed. David Crosby jammed. Cyndi Lauper flaunted her “True Colors.” Counting Crows crooned “Round Here.” Nelly Furtado pseudo-scatted. Engelbert Humperdinck melted hearts. And that was just the tip of the musical iceberg.
Armed with razor-sharp witticisms, Whoopi Goldberg exuded comedic grace as emcee, punctuating her thoughts with self-deprecating jokes and whipping the crowd into rounds of applause.
Though Goldberg struggled to read the scripted teleprompter scrolling on the Carrier Dome’s Jumbotron, she had no problem cracking jokes off the cuff.
“I can’t see that big Jumbotron, so I’m looking deep in myself to talk to you,” she said, deadpanning. “Also because there’s a big-a** light shining in my eyes.”
The comedian filled in the blank spaces between performances with a steady stream of inspirational quips and poked fun at her relationship with the concert’s guest of honor: The Dalai Lama.
“I think I’ve taken a lot of my better lyrics from His Holiness."
“I’m so not that person you’d think is hanging out with the spiritual leader of the world,” Goldberg said with a laugh.
It wasn’t Goldberg’s first time emceeing for the Dalai Lama, nor was it Dave Matthews’ first time performing in the company of the spiritual icon. With an acoustic guitar slung across his neck, the singer stood solo on stage.
He launched into a rendition of “Don’t Drink the Water,” confiding in his audience that some lines he’s penned drew inspiration from previous meetings with the Dalai Lama.
“I think I’ve taken a lot of my better lyrics from His Holiness,” said Matthews, nestling his guitar back across his chest.
The upper decks and cheap seats flickered with flashes from cameras and cellphones as students snapped pictures of the folk singer. Matthews wailed on his guitar and sustained fluttering high notes that elicited cheers from the crowd.
“They’re all love songs,” Matthews said as a prelude to the rest of his abbreviated set. “But this is that good, broken-hearted kind of love. Maybe it’s a broken-eardrum kind of love song. It’s one I think I lifted from His Holiness.”
Matthews crooned “Mercy” with careful restraint, closing with a falsetto-laced John Denver cover after joking that “this is a song by a different John.”
The concert then became a blur of performers in rapid-fire rotation. A scraggly-haired David Crosby blew through rock staples “Deja Vu” and “Long Time Gone.” Natasha Bedingfield, flowing in a silky white dress, smirked and told her drummer to kick it for her hit “Unwritten.” The latest American Idol winner Phillip Phillips strolled on stage, hands in pockets, before belting “Home” with a goofy smile plastered across his face.
“It was completely amazing that Syracuse could pull it all together,” said Mitchell Mason, a junior public relations major. “Being there with your friends and people from class, you just felt a oneness.”
Concertgoers shed a collective tear when Iranian singer Andy Madadian split a soulful duet with Israeli singer Liel Kolet. The song marked the first time an Israeli and Iranian singer performed together on the same stage, Kolet said.
Kolet ramped up the emotional meter when she shared the stage with the Voices of Peace Choir for a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” stirring the audience members to sway while their heartstrings tugged.
“The entire experience was so powerful,” Mason said. “Just being able to sing with everyone was completely amazing.”
“Round Here” rounded out the lengthy concert. Counting Crows played a toe-tapping, three-song set to end a night stuffed to capacity with music and emotion.
The stage was silent when students finally spilled out of the Carrier Dome concourses, but the feelings of peace were nearly tangible.
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