The David Lynch Foundation’s Transcendental Meditation benefit on Saturday (April 4) in New York became a Beatles reunion of sorts as Ringo Starr joined Paul McCartney on stage for the show’s three-song finale. The pair’s stint onstage together at Radio City Music Hall began with “A Little Help From My Friends” and ended with that sentiment in action as the night’s many performers – including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow, Donovan, Ben Harper, Moby and the Beach Boys’ Mike Love – performed “I Saw Her Standing There” to a standing ovation.
The sold-out “Change Begins Within” show, whose proceeds the Lynch Foundation will use to benefit one million at risk youth via meditation, marks the first time McCartney and Starr have played together since November 2002’s Concert For George in London on the first anniversary of George Harrison’s death. Headliner McCartney thrilled the capacity crowd of 6,000 with a 12-song set that also included Wings hits “Band On The Run” and “Jet” alongside Beatles classics “Let It Be” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Before playing 1968’s “Blackbird,” McCartney explained he had written the song with the 60s civil rights movement in mind and noted that, “in light of Obama’s election, there is change.”
McCartney’s run capped a four-hour evening filled with interesting juxtapositions of musicians — from a Black Flag t-shirt wearing Moby and soul singer Bettye LaVette producing a spot-on version of his “Natural Blues” with some help from Connecticut’s Weaver High School TM Choir, to the odder spectacle of My Morning Jacket’s Jim James handling co-vocals with Donovan on the latter’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”
On the heels of a well-received surprise routine from Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper earned the evening’s first standing ovation with an inspired cover of “Under Pressure” which featured Vedder handling David Bowie’s parts while Harper nailed Freddie Mercury’s. “Change Begins Within” also featured performances from pianist Angelo Badalamenti and flautist Paul Horn.
Hosted by director David Lynch and actress Laura Dern, the show was studded with mentions of the Beatles’ 1968 trip to India to meditate with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and videos and stories of meditation helping students nationwide. Sheryl Crow and Ben Harper duetted on George Harrison’s appropriate “My Sweet Lord” and even surprise speaker Howard Stern had a few things to say about the power of meditation.
Ringo Starr gave the crowd the night’s first real taste of the Beatles as he had Crow and Vedder handle backup on “Yellow Submarine” at the tail end of his mini-set right before McCartney took the stage.
After McCartney led the full ensemble on the final notes of the night’s last song, “I Saw Her Standing There,” he and Starr hugged every person on stage before jokingly trying to out-mug each other for the center stage spotlight, and the whole crowd cheered until the stage was empty.