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Review: Tibetan Freedom Concert


RADIOHEAD, REM and Sonic Youth went ahead with their performances at the weekend's Tibetan Freedom Concert in Washington, DC – a day late.
The Saturday (June 13) show was called off half way through the afternoon, when lightning struck the RFK Stadium during a sudden electrical storm, injuring 11 people and leaving one young woman, Lysa Selfon, on the critical list. She suffered second-degree burns on 20 per cent of her body.
As we went to press, she was still in Washington Hospital Canter where her condition was improving and described as “fair”,
Kimberly Baldwin, one of those injured, said: “I felt a shock on my left hand, then it went up my shoulder and blew the cigarette out of my hand.” She was released from the on-site medical station after an hour.
The storm hit at 3.40pm, during Herbie Hancock's set, with a lightning crack which “sounded like a bomb going off”, according to witnesses. Some 33 firefighters attended the scene, while the Tibetan monks and nuns in attendance prayed for the victims. Michael Stipe took the stage.
“We're gonna have to cancel the show,” he declared. “We're very sorry. Listen, we've been in contact with the national weather service. There's more activity on its way. A couple of people were struck by lightning earlier. It's not safe to stay here and so we're gonna try and work it out for tomorrow. My band will be performing.
“Par anyone who doesn't have a ticket for tomorrow, remember this is a benefit and we're very sorry, but we can't control the weather or the lightning. Go home in peace and know that we love you.”
Those who performed on Saturday were Money Mark, Mutabaruka, Live and Dave Matthews. Patti Smith had been due to play, but was grounded in New York where the airports were closed.
Of the artists cancelled on Saturday, Radiohead, REM and Sonic Youth were added to the Sunday show, and Tracy Chapman and Beck couldn't reschedule, Kraftwerk had to drop out on Sunday because their show had become “logistically impossible”.
Radiohead reacted to Saturday's events by quickly arranging a secret gig at the 9.30 Club, with Thom Yorke revealing: “We had all this adrenalin and nothing to do with it.” They were joined by Michael Stipe, who sang an unaccompanied version of the old reggae song, “Everything I Own”, and by Pulp who played three songs including “Help The Aged” and “I'm A Man”,
Radiohead played a full set and were joined by Stipe for “Lucky”. They also showcased a new song, “How To Disappear”, which was “powerfully acoustic, like Radiohead covering The Unbelievable Truth”!
Yorke appealed to the audience to support Monday's Free Tibet march: “Cancel work and cancel college – go on the march!” Stipe, Adam Yauch and Dave Matthews were scheduled to meet President Clinton on the day of the march to urge him to ask for negotiations with the Chinese and Tibetan governments.
The mutual appreciation society of Radiohead and REM was evident again at the Sunday show when Yorke guested with REM for “E-Bow The Letter” and “Be mine”, and Stipe again joined Radiohead for “Lucky”.
Also playing on the Sunday were Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Luscious Jackson, Pulp, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Wyclef Jean, Sean Lennon, Buffalo Daughter, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, who made e surprise appearance at the end of the night.
The 66,000 attendance made this the second-biggest benefit gig ever, after Live Aid.