Monday, February 10, 2014
Recorded a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles, various rock stars performed cover versions of Beatles classics for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, both of whom were in attendance. The evening built to a rare reunion of Paul and Ringo that brought back memories of Super Bowl halftime shows.
Shoehorned in were clips from that historic ED SULLIVAN appearance along with very cool interviews with some of the production crew members who worked that show. One guy had to fill in for George Harrison during a rehearsal. There’s a great shot of Paul, John, Ringo, and this yutz on the familiar stage.
In taped segments, Paul and Ringo went back to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, now the home of LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. Letterman interviewed them about that night and could not be more disinterested if he were interviewing me. He made it seem like he was sent to Detention. They should have gotten Jay Leno. He was available.
But most of the night was the glorious music. And endless crowd shots. All you saw were either the principles (and Yoko, who either aged well or always looked old), celebrities like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and hot young women. Go to a real Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr concert. Everyone has grey hair or is bald. 14,000 aged hippies. Not one of them was in view at this concert. In its heyday, I don’t think the guard at the door of Studio 54 was as picky as whoever admitted this charmed crowd. It looked more like an open casting call for a CW show. If you were as old as one of the Beatles but weren’t one of the Beatles, good luck.
Most of the performances were terrific The guitar playing, in particular, was thrilling all night. . Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison killed doing “Something.” Keith Urban and John Mayer rocked out on "Don't Let Me Down." And my favorite was David Grohl, Gary Clark Jr. and Joe Walsh doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” When Peter Frampton is just a backup guitarist, you know you’re in rarified surroundings.
Stevie Wonder sang his funky rendition of “We Can Work It Out.” I always thought his version was better than the Beatles, and he sang it as well last night as he did 40 years ago.
Katy Perry is gorgeous to look at. The Imagine Dragons had lovely harmonies on “Revolution” but it was weird hearing it turned into a Four Freshman tune.
As Ed Sullivan himself would say, “And now, for you youngsters…” Cirque du Soleil was employed during “Here Comes the Sun” but you rarely saw them. They also did an encore at the end of the concert, but by then so many elements were being thrown in it looked like the Radio Shack Super Bowl ad.
Biggest disappointment for me was Annie Lennox. You may disagree, but I thought she massacred “Fool On The Hill.” There were some notes that made my teeth rattle.
At one point they showed Sean Lennon in the audience taking a photo of the stage on his iPhone. If I were in that crowd I’d be doing the same thing – although I’d have fifty shots of Victoria Secrets models and Paul's new wife.
Finally, it was time for the men of the hour. Ringo performed first. He always seems like comic relief. And you get the feeling he’s the only one in the room who doesn’t know that. Still, I love his goofy spirit and as long as he doesn’t sing “You’re 16, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine” I’m happy. I’ve seen him in concert with his All-Star band twice and he puts on a great show.
But he’s no Paul McCartney. Sir Paul followed with three numbers and even though I was worried he’d have a hernia every time he really wailed, he sounded great and there’s something very comforting about knowing an original Beatle can still bring it fifty years later.
The night concluded with the mini-reunion. Paul sang “Sgt. Pepper” and Ringo followed with “A Little Help From My Friends.” They concluded with “Hey Jude” and as they scanned the beautiful people of this hand-picked audience I wondered how many of these girls were hearing these songs for the very first time.
I know a lot of young people don’t love the Beatles, and I get that. We can say they changed America, we can point to the innovative music they created and how they influenced everything culturally in the ‘60s. But to some extent, you had to be there. Or read my book about growing up in the ‘60s – available on Amazon now. (Was that subtle enough?)
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM