The three stars were part of a line-up that also included guitarist Sharon Isbin, singer Angelique Kidjo, and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at the David Lynch Foundation’s benefit concert Wednesday evening at Carnegie Hall, which raised money to teach transcendental meditation in New York. (Lynch, who also created Twin Peaks, couldn’t make it to the event because he was too busy filming Showtime’s reboot of the cult show in the Pacific Northwest.)
Seinfeld kicked off the event with a short stand-up set where he joked about the petty obstacles married couples face when going out for an evening, the importance of your phone’s battery life, and the stupidity of empty phrases like “It is what it is.”
After Bob Roth, the executive director of the David Lynch Foundation, led the audience in some group meditation (which turned into hundreds of people staying silent and either playing on their phones or napping for a few minutes), Isbin and Kidjo each performed a song. James then boarded the stage for a string-accompanied rendition of “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” a track off his 2013 solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God.
Then it was Sting’s turn: The Police frontman opened with the very appropriate “Englishman in New York,” a song that he jovially acted out at certain parts, and eventually launched into “Fields of Gold,” a choice that caused audience members to gasp once they realized what he was singing.
Although most of the performers talked at least a little bit about meditation — Sting chose to incorporate it in his set by mentioning it in relation to “Shape of My Heart,” his 1993 track that begins with, “He deals the cards as a meditation” — Perry went into detail about its effect on her life in between a moody, sinister remix of “Teenage Dream” and a more true-to-album performance of “Wide Awake”: “You know when you have a crappy day or something that doesn’t want to go right?” Perry said. “I always excuse myself for 20 minutes, and then I’m back.”
A highlight of her five-song set came during “Dark Horse” when a violinist came out to perform with Perry front-and-center, something that brought a newfound epic quality to the track. Her violin solo replaced Juicy J’s rap verse, building and building as Perry watched in awe and occasionally danced before it reached a delightfully overwhelming, beautifully chaotic climax.
She ended the show, predictably, with “Firework” — with some surprise back-up dancers: Four ballerinas, donning baby-pink tutus, emerged at the song’s beginning, instilling the performance with a magical atmosphere that made it feel like a real-life music box.
During the concert’s early few minutes of meditation, remaining in that state seemed like a nice idea — a completely quiet Carnegie Hall is a completely relaxing environment (save for the inevitable coughs and sounds of audience members rustling in their seats) — and Isbin’s trance-inspiring guitar-only performance that immediately followed didn’t exactly help the waking up process. But Sting and Perry’s enthusiastic sets, full of crowd-pleasing hits, ensured that no one slipped back into the meditative state. And despite the many benefits of meditation the guests preached throughout the night, staying wide awake was definitely the superior option.