Paul-and-Ringo duet thrills Beatles fans at benefit

Change Begins Within

Former Beatles Paul McCartney (L) and Ringo Starr, speak at a news conference where David Lynch's foundation announced an initiative to teach one million at-risk youth to meditate, in New York, April 3, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - In terms of teasing musical foreplay, this was downright frustrating.

During Paul McCartney’s show-closing set for David Lynch’s “Change Begins Within” concert at Radio City, an empty drum kit sat tantalizingly behind him. As the ex-Beatle delivered rousing versions of such hits as “Jet,” “Lady Madonna” and “Let It Be,” among others, the entire audience waited breathlessly in anticipation. When would Ringo Starr, who had just finished his own solo set, be joining him?

It wasn’t until nearly the end of the marathon four-hour evening that McCartney announced that the presence of a special guest, one “Billy Shears.” Sure enough, the ebullient Ringo bounced out, sharing a microphone with his former bandmate on “With a Little Help From My Friends” and thrilling the sold-out crowd with the closest thing now possible to a Beatles reunion.

Watching Ringo behind the drums while McCartney and the rest of the all-star lineup performed “Cosmically Conscious” and “I Saw Her Standing There” made it seem, if only for a little while, that everything was all right in the world.

Not that everything was necessarily all right with the show, which raised some $3 million for Lynch’s foundation, whose goal is to teach the practice of meditation to 1 million “at risk” children around the world.

Hosted by Lynch and actress Laura Dern, the evening featured a gallery of musical stars, but the inclusion of endless earnest speeches about the glories of Transcendental Meditation too often made it seem like a glorified infomercial.

It also served as a reunion of sorts for veterans of the Beatles’ 1968 sojourn to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, including Donovan (whose set included “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” accompanied by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James), flautist Paul Horn, and Mike Love of the Beach Boys.

Many of the stars performed material clearly inspired by the occasion. Sheryl Crow, accompanied by Ben Harper, covered George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” McCartney paid tribute to John Lennon with “Here Today.” And Harper and Eddie Vedder killed with a rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.”

Other highlights included Moby and Bettye LeVette dueting on “Natural Blues” while accompanied by the TM Kids Choir; Vedder’s intense solo acoustic renditions of such songs as “Far Behind” and “Rise”; and pianist Angelo Badalamenti’s show-opening rendition of his eerie “Twin Peaks” theme.

Surprise guests included Jerry Seinfeld (“Don’t meditate on me, I gotta do some jokes here,” he cracked) and an uncharacteristically serious Howard Stern, who announced that he’s been meditating for 38 years and who credited TM with saving his depressed mother’s life many years ago.