On any other occasion, David Lynch and Laura Dern chatting onstage about the making of Blue Velvet would be worthy of full attention. Not so last night at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, when there was a Beatles reunion in the wings. We could hear Paul McCartney tuning up behind the curtain for his headlining set at the David Lynch Foundation’s “Change Begins Within” benefit concert. Ringo Starr had played a rollicking mini-set of his own just a few minutes earlier. Still, there had been no rock-solid confirmation that the two living Beatles would perform together last night. When Dern and Lynch walked off and the curtain went up, it was for Macca to play a Beatles-heavy solo show (full set list after the jump). He was in high spirits and excellent form. But we all got what we were really waiting for at the end of McCartney’s set, when he introduced an old mate named Billy Shears to join him on “With A Little Help From My Friends.” It’s a good thing Radio City has such a powerful sound system. Otherwise you’d never have heard the Fab Two singing that familiar melody together over the crowd’s wild roar.
It made sense that David Lynch, master of the awesomely surreal, was responsible for the fairly surreal, indescribably awesome experience of seeing Paul and Ringo reunite for the first time in over six years. The filmmaker organized last night’s concert to raise awareness and funds for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, a charity that works to promote the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation technique. This gave the evening special resonance for me, since my favorite Beatles work is the self-titled White Album, written mostly during the band’s 1968 trip to Rishikesh, India, to study TM with Maharishi. Also present at that famed ashram stay were folkie Donovan and jazz flutist Paul Horn, both of whom performed earlier in last night’s crowded bill, as well as Beach Boy Mike Love, who spoke briefly. Other performers, all strong, included Bettye LaVette, Moby, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and Lynch’s longtime scorer Angelo Badalamenti. Many of them took time to testify on how TM had changed their lives for the better. Did I mention the surprise walk-ons by longtime meditators Howard Stern (who credited TM with saving his depressive mom’s life) and Jerry Seinfeld (who split sides with some Seinfeldian observations on movie theaters, public restrooms, and marriage)?
All of those performers (well, minus Stern and Seinfeld) came back out for McCartney’s encore, featuring Ringo on drums instead of vocals. Together they banged out Macca rarity “Cosmically Conscious” and Beatles classic “I Saw Her Standing There,” which rocked even harder than it did at this year’s Grammys. It was an impressive moment by any measure. I’ve never practiced any kind of meditation myself, and I’m not sure if the fervent testimonials, glossy pamphlets, and informational short films that the David Lynch Foundation lined up last night are likely to change that. But any movement that can bring that number and caliber of creative minds together must be doing something right.
Ringo Starr set list:
“It Don’t Come Easy”
[Patter: “I’m meditating right now. I’m gonna go do some more meditating on my drums.”]
“Boys” (with Eddie Vedder and Ben Harper)
“Yellow Submarine” (with Vedder, Harper, and Sheryl Crow)
Paul McCartney set list:
“Drive My Car”
“Got to Get You Into My Life”
“Let It Be”
“Blackbird” (solo/acoustic, dedicated to President Obama)
“Here Today” (solo/acoustic, dedicated to John Lennon)
“Band on the Run”
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
“With A Little Help From My Friends” (with Ringo Starr)
[Break before encore]
“Cosmically Conscious” (with Ringo Starr plus all other performers)
“I Saw Her Standing There” (with Ringo Starr plus all other performers)
More from EW’s Music Mix:
Metallica, Run-DMC inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Stevie Nicks on her favorite songs: A Music Mix exclusive
Bob Dylan’s free single: Snap judgment
What’s the most heartbreaking song of all time?