05.01.09 | Dark Was the Night | Radio City Music Hall


Seeing a show at Radio City Music Hall is something one should do at some point in one's life. The hall is beautiful and expansive, and the acoustics are spectacular. It's like you're sitting in a womb and having music beamed at you from all directions. And what better show to experience than Dark Was the Night, a show benefiting AIDS research. The all-star line up included Dirty Projectors, David Byrne, Feist, Bon Iver, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, My Brightest Diamond, David Sitek of TV on the Radio, and the National, who organized the event.

Dark Was the Night is the name of this year's album, produced by the Red Hot Organization, the "leading international organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture." The album features many collaborations between different artists, and this was the most unique element of the show. David Byrne joined the National onstage, Bon Iver brought out Feist, members of different bands were appearing on and off in each others sets that I can't even really remember now who was the main act.

The best performance in my opinion, was from Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. She performed a haunting cover of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good". Below is a video from another performance.


The National were probably the greatest disappointment of the evening, with a mostly forgettable performance. Dave Sitek performed a charming version of the Trogg's "With a Girl Like You" backed by a big band. David Byrne brought out a drum line to perform some songs from previous Red Hot compilations. He was positively endearing on stage, wearing an interesting red white and blue dress shirt and sporting silver locks that kind of shot straight up on his head. Bon Iver was amazing live. Not only is lead singer Justin Vernon's vocal range spectacular, the rest of the band all possess stellar pipes. Hearing their velvety vocals in the hall was surreal. Their album does not do them justice; one must see them perform live to truly appreciate them. I feel like their vocal style is similar to Fleet Foxes, but whereas Fleet Foxes sound better on disc (with the benefit of good production) Bon Iver truly shine live. Feist took the stage next, and played a set of all covers. I had been hoping to hear some Feist tunes, but the covers were nice, and elicited a coffee-shop feel, as she manned the stage alone with her guitar, only calling on Bon Iver to join for "Train Song". Closing out the evening was Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. If you haven't heard of Sharon Jones, she channels the soul singers of the past to life in the present. The woman really commands the stage. Not only was her voice deep and rich, her moves were pretty hot too. In commemoration of James Brown's birthday that day, she strutted around the stage doing some of his signature moves. Finally, all the previous acts were brought out on stage to perform "This Land is Your Land" as a nod to Pete Seeger, who was having a 90th birthday concert at Madison Square that same evening. Part way through the performance, Sharon Jones came back on stage to "burst their bubble." She proceeded to blast through a soulful rendition of the song, while the indie superstars chimed in wherever they could. It was an amazing, one-of-a-kind show.

David Byrne takes the stage

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