Paul McCartney was rehearsing at Radio City for a fundraiser for filmmaker David Lynch's foundation, which aspires to teach meditation techniques to a million at-risk youngsters around the world.
Plenty of big-name stars came to play for the cause, among them Eddie Vedder, Sheryl Crow and Donovan.
The biggest draw, though, was clearly McCartney and an old friend: Ringo Starr.
There are four living former U.S. presidents but only two surviving Beatles. Seeing the two Beatles, it's impossible to not think of the missing John Lennon and George Harrison, and despite any past rivalries or icy years, McCartney is now in a place where he speaks about them only with ease and affection.
At the rehearsal, McCartney stood alone on stage, with his voice (which, it must be said, remains supple and evocative) echoing in a spectral-sounding reverb, and sang an acoustic version of his 1982 song Here Today," a poignant what-if conversation with the late Lennon:
What about the time we met? / Well I suppose that you could say that we were playing hard to get / Didn't understand a thing / But we could always sing.
The screen behind McCartney filled with famous Beatles photographs, the present backlighted by the past. Then Paul asked his crew, We going to do the one with Ringo now?"
Out walked the world's most famous drummer, looking tan, lean and unhurried in sunglasses, like a well-heeled tourist on holiday in Greece. McCartney feigned as if he would kiss Starr full on the lips, and Starr responded with a mock sneer and a pantomime slap. Then they sang With a Little Help From My Friends."
Just after 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 4th
Paul McCartney finally uttered the phrase that the 6,000 people in New Yorks Radio City Music Hall had been desperate to hear for more than three hours.
At this point, McCartney said, we'd would like to introduce to you someone you know, ladies and gentlemen, Billy Shears!" When Ringo Starr bounded onstage to sing With a Little Help From My Friends" with McCartney and his band the crowd finally witnessed the closest thing to a Beatles reunion in 2009.
The much-anticipated coming together of McCartney and Starr was part of Change Begins Within, a benefit for the David Lynch Foundations drive to bring meditation to troubled public schools. With his modern-Eraserhead hairdo and helium voice, the idiosyncratic director was the evenings master of ceremonies. As Yoko Ono, Bill OReilly, John McEnroe, Jennifer Aniston, Martin Scorsese and other famous types watched from the audience, celebrities youd expect (Mike Love of the Beach Boys) and wouldnt (Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern) gave testimonials to the power of meditating.
Yet nostalgia for another era of pop, when rock & roll and spiritual enlightenment were a seemingly natural fit, permeated the concert. Backed by Harper and his band (and with Jim James of My Morning Jacket singing along), Donovan still fond of Nehru shirts and beads happily resurrected Season of the Witch," Wear Your Love Like Heaven" and Hurdy Gundy Man." Sheryl Crow covered George Harrisons My Sweet Lord" with Harper sitting in to recreate Harrisons slide guitar licks.
Still, it was co-headliners McCartney and Starr who everyone truly yearned to see. Rings own mini-set It Dont Came Easy," Boys" and Yellow Submarine," in which he too was backed by Harper and the Relentless7 came first. Then McCartney and his touring band knocked out nearly an hours worth of solo hits Band on the Run," Jet" and Beatles classics Cant Buy Me Love," Drive My Car," Got to Get You Into My Life", Let It Be", Lady Madonna".
Although it would've been nice to see Starr bash along with the latter songs, all seemed to be forgiven with his and McCartneys sweetly laconic With a Little Help from My Friends."
Afterwards, Starr finally took a seat behind an extra drum kit to thump along on Cosmically Conscious," a chant-like ditty McCartney wrote during the Beatles Indian pilgrimage. Vedder, Crow and nearly everyone else sang along, then stayed for the encore, I Saw Her Standing There." As McCartney aimed to hit the songs famous whooping whoooo! and Starr bashed away while bobbing his head, the legend of the Fab Four finally took the stage.