Michael Stipe & Patti Smith

03.11.09 – When Calexico is listed as the Carnegie Hall “house band” for a concert featuring over twenty different artists, chances are it’s going to be an incredible night. In addition to performing their rendition of “Wendell Gee,” Calexico supported acts including The Feelies, Ingrid Michaelson, Glen Hansard, Kimya Dawson, Bob Mould and Patti Smith as they honored legendary Athens rockers R.E.M. with songs from the band’s incredible 29 year career.

The unprecidented lineup of talent was brought together by New York producer Michael Dorf to raise money for music education programs for underprivileged youth. 100% of the events proceeds were divided amongst Church Street School for Music & Art, The American Symphony Orchestra and The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.

The set list:

“Fall On Me” (the dB’s)
“The Apologist” (Fink)
“Man on the Moon” (Keren Ann with Calexico)
“Wendell Gee” (Calexico)
“The Great Beyond” (Rachael Yamagata with Calexico)
“Sitting Still” (Bob Mould with Calexico)
“Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” (The Feelies)
“Nightswimming” (Ingrid Michaelson)
“Hairshirt” (Glen Hansard)
“South Central Rain” (Apples in Stereo)
“Shaking Through” (Guster)
“Supernatural Superserious” (Marshall Crenshaw with Calexico)
“Driver 8″ (Rhett Miller with Calexico)
“World Leader Pretend” (Kimya Dawson)
“Everybody Hurts” (Vic Chesnutt with Elf Power)
“Perfect Circles” (Kristin Hersh and the Throwing Muses)
“At My Most Beautiful” (Dar Williams)
“(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” (Jolie Holland with Calexico, Kyp Malone, Colin Stetson)
“I Believe” (Darius Rucker with Calexico)
“New Test Leper” (Patti Smith)
“E-Bow The Letter” (R.E.M.)

Michael Stipe


Michael Stipe and Patti Smith with Mike Bell


Patti Smith performs “New Test Leper”


Darius Rucker performs “I Believe”


Joey Burns of Calexico performs “Wendell Gee”


Ryan Miller of Guster performs “Shaking Through”


Ingrid Michaelson performs “Night Swimming”


Kimya Dawson performs “World Leader Pretend”


Vic Chesnutt performs “Everybody Hurts”


Kristen Hersh performs “Perfect Circle”


Jolie Holland with Kyp Malone and Colin Stetson

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Rachel Yamagata performs “The Great Beyond”


Glen Hansard performs “Hairshirt”


Bob Mould performs “Sitting Still”


Kimya Dawson embraces Michael Stipe beside Patti Smith, Elf Power, Rachel Yamagata and Dar Williams



For music fans, the draw for a concert like The Music of R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall, isn’t that the performances will be good quality. After all, each artist is only on stage for one song with no time to reset the stage for the next. This is exactly as it should be given that trying to totally rearranging the stage for each artist in a 2 hour timeframe would end in disaster.

Everyone who bought a ticket knew this (or should have). Each ticket was really just access to a once in a lifetime chance to see some of the best musicians in the world on stage with more of the best musicians in the world performing the songs of one of the best bands in the world. Confused? I hope not.

Similarly, the draw for a photographer to want to shoot a show like this isn’t that the photos will be very good. Shooting from the back of Carnegie Hall with a quilt wrapped around your camera with an on-off-on lineup is about like shooting twenty little concerts each with a one song limit from the sound board. It stinks.

It should be no surprise that the photographers were there for the same reason as the audience; to see once in a lifetime combinations of musicians and music. Will I ever see Michael Stipe and Patti Smith perform together again? Let’s hope so.

I shot exclusively with the Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR on the Nikon D3 at ISO 4000 and 1/250. The 400mm end of the lens was just long enough to give me a full-length shot in FX mode and a half-length in DX. Since I generally regard the 6MP image of the D3 in DX crop mode as enough for this type of gig, I opted to use the zoom instead of a longer and heavier lens like a 500mm prime.

Even though the 200-400 f/4 is small for it’s reach, at 16 pounds, it still requires the use of a tripod or monopod in order to hold it steady for any period of time.

  1. The image quality is quite good, I kinda like events like this, keeps you on your toes, plus your getting a great concert if you like the music.

    I take it the 200-400 is a rental ?

  2. Hi Rene,

    The D3 is totally usable at ISO 4000 and the 200-400mm (yes a rental) is very sharp wide open. The image quality on this set was a lot better than when I shot Leonard Cohen with the 70-200 + 1.4 TC despite similar exposure settings.

    I’d love to own the 200-400 as it’s a good zoom range for soundboard shoots. I have other things to spend 6K on. Like my wedding. Ugh.

  3. Mark

    What a great collection of images, shot under greuling circumstances, of a once in a lifetime star studded event. That you got these images at all is strong testimony to your skills as a photographer, the extraordinary high ISO perfrormance of the D3, and some sweet glass! Bravo and lets hope these musicians find a reason to gather together again.

  4. Nickie Bulmer

    Keep droppin those beats Ronald! All of us OU fans think you da bomb-diggity. Hold it down baby!

  5. Thanks for your kind kind words Mark. If you find a 200-400mm f/4 VR laying on the sideway somewhere will you send it to me? =)