Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and more

It was my second time at Radio City Music Hall (I don’t remember going to Pete’s Dragon, but I have a reliable source who says I was there), and I was pretty pumped. Now everyone knew that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were playing separate sets and had refused to comment on playing together, but I think everyone assumed they couldn’t because that would just bring up too much Beatles baggage. But it surely was on the mind of everyone there. It was a benefit for David Lynch’s charity promoting TM for kids, and possibly the only way to get some of the performers together on the same stage as many thought very highly of it (plus it’s a way to discuss the late ’60s without the usual questions).

The show started with David Lynch coming out and speaking (he’d come out by himself or with Laura Dern between every act), then we got our first unannounced guest: Angelo Badalamenti playing a keyboard solo. He’s worked with David Lynch extensively, but I’m only really familiar with his work on Twin Peaks. So what does he play? “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from Twin Peaks, and a very nice way to begin. Next Bettye Lavette came out with Moby and his band to perform with a choir from Weaver High School. Now we had no idea before the concert who would perform and in what order. We got a program at the show that turned out to show the order, but sometimes people were performing together, so much of the night was full of surprises. Bettye Lavette was a great choice to handle the soulful vocals of “Natural Blues”, then she left and Moby did “We Are All Made Of Stars”, then the choir left and Bettye came back for her “Close As I’ll Get To Heaven”. Good stuff, but the evening was just getting started.

Sheryl Crow came out next with her band for a nice take on “Riverwide”, then invoked the spirit of George Harrison by having Ben Harper join her for a tasty run through My Sweet Lord. The biggest surprise came next as Jerry Seinfeld appeared for a hilarious ten minutes of standup – I had no idea he’d be there, and was certainly the funniest part of the night. Eddie Vedder ventured out solo (much like his recent shows) and played Guaranteed and Rise Up from his soundtrack for Into The Wild. He finished with the vocal loops of Pearl Jam’s Arc, very powerful live. He wasn’t done, as he returned with Ben Harper and his new band Relentless7 for a great take on another Pearl Jam classic, Indifference. We got a taste of the new Relentless7 CD with “Up To You Now” before Eddie returned to the stage for what was certainly the non Beatles highlight of the night as Ben and Eddie traded verses on a cover of Queen + David Bowie’s Under Pressure. They took an intermission after that (frankly, they had to – that was about the two hour mark).

First up after the intermission was Donovan with Jim James of My Morning Jacket on background vocals and Ben Harper & Relentless7 as his band. He played fine versions of “The Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”, then brought Sheryl Crow out for a fine duet on Season Of The Witch. Then the band left, and Paul Horn came out to join him on “Isle Of Islay” which was a nice reunion as both of them had been with the Beatles in India. Donovan left and Paul played “Meditation” solo, then Howard Stern of all people told us what Maharishi and TM meant to him, then introduced Ringo Starr. Once again Ben Harper & Relentless7 were the band, but this time Eddie Vedder came out to perform background vocals. It Don’t Come Easy was first and appropriate as it was co-written with George, then Ringo played drums on the early Beatles classic Boys. Sheryl Crow joined Eddie on background vocals for Yellow Submarine, very fun and a big crowd singalong. We passed the three hour mark, but there was much more to come.

After a final talk by David Lynch and Laura Dern (it was long, but the roadies were switching equipment the whole time they were speaking, the lights went out and we got Paul McCartney and his band. I’d bought both his recent albums in anticipation, but it was only classics this night, starting with Drive My Car, Jet and Got To Get You Into My Life. He moved to piano for Let It Be and Lady Madonna, then picked up an acoustic guitar for solo takes on Blackbird (dedicated to the president) and “Here Today” (dedicated to John). The band returned to rock through Band On The Run and Can’t Buy Me Love, then Paul introduced a very special guest – “Billy Shears”, and Ringo appears to amazing applause and cheers and a fun take on With A Little Help From My Friends (and here’s a bit of the pro version).

They return for an encore of course, as well as everyone else along with Mike Love from the Beach Boys. We get another surprise, as Paul wrote Cosmically Conscious in India but had never performed it live before (and it’s only been heard as an excerpt on Off the Ground). Very cool, then David Lynch read “A Poem Of Unknown Origin”, then an amazing finish with I Saw Her Standing There (and Ringo on drums). A truly legendary show, and worth every penny to go.

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