Ringo Starr Honored at 'A Lifetime of Peace and Love' Concert
A coming wave of 50th anniversary Beatlemania unofficially kicked off Monday night at Los Angeles' El Rey Theatre with a concert tribute to Ringo Starr, who's using his current visibility to drum up financial support for filmmaker David Lynch’s transcendental meditation-furthering charity.
Before Starr himself capped off the evening with a three-song mini-set, he was saluted with cover songs performed by distant in-law Joe Walsh, veteran R&B singer Bettye LaVette, and next-generation rock heroes Ben Folds and Ben Harper, among others, with fellow TM adherent Jim Carrey joining in on the final "With a Little Help From My Friends" sing-along.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti was also on hand to deliver city plaques to both Starr and Lynch, who celebrated his 68th birthday Monday. It fell to Garcetti to make the inevitable joke about the odd gap between Lynch’s cinematic horrors and his advocacy for inner bliss. "I was 16 years old at my buddy’s house when we first saw Blue Velvet," Garcetti told the crowd, "and after watching that, I’ve needed TM ever since."
Starr, on the other hand, has been one of the public faces of TM ever since the Beatles made it a middle-American buzzword in 1967. Besides still being the Funny One, he’s also assumed George Harrison’s mantle as the Spiritual One.
The 400 or so seats at for the intimate benefit were only available by privately contacting DLF Live -- a new performing arts wing of Lynch's transcendental meditation charity -- but were said to run in the $1,000-to-$100,000 range, with funds going toward Lynch's initiatives to teach the meditation practice to at-risk students and PTSD-suffering veterans.
Starr closed the show with "Photograph," the first of his two solo No. 1s; "Boys," the Shirelles cover that offered him his first recorded vocal on Meet the Beatles in 1963; and, finally, the Sgt. Pepper anthem that cast him as Billy Shears and everyone's friend. Like the rest of the musical cast, he was backed by a Don Was-led band that included guitarists Peter Frampton and Steve Lukather, keyboardist Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers, and Kenny Aronoff on drums.
Preceding the headliner, a slew of Ringo covers both familiar and not included LaVette (who noted she was also in her 50th year in show business) doing a nearly unrecognizably bluesy and lyrically "It Don’t Come Easy," Folds taking on "Oh My My" in a piano-pounding style that owed as much to Jerry Lee Lewis as Starr, Walsh's deeply absurdist take on the already ridiculous "Back Off Boogaloo," and indie upstarts the Head and the Heart visiting "Octopus’ Garden."
Some of the stars on hand only got up for the final group-sing, like Jeff Lynne, Edgar Winter, and TM's currently most famous actor evangelist, Carrey -- who called Lynch "teacher" and made a strange point of gifting the director with an apple. Since Carrey had claimed on the red carpet to have come down with the flu and a fever of "105," Lynch is probably going to want to wash that.
Starr's next turn in the spotlight will be a post-Grammys taping of a CBS Beatles special with Paul McCartney Monday night, possibly followed by a return to the scene of the February 1963 Ed Sullivan Theatre crime on David Letterman's show. Next up for Lynch's meditative charity: yet another DLF Live benefit, this time honoring Rick Rubin and featuring the reunited Dixie Chicks, Feb. 27 at the Beverly Hilton.