Some of the best concerts result from last-minute ticket purchases, and Wednesday night's performance by Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Radio City was no exception.
The 2010 All-Starr Band is comprised of Richard Page of Mr. Mister, Rick Derringer of the McCoys, Edgar Winter of White Trash, Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth, and Wally Palmer of The Romantics, all of whom are legends in their own rights. The concert began with Ringo's solo hit, "It Don't Come Easy." Over the course of the next two hours, the All-Starrs each played their two biggest hits, interspersed with solo and Beatles hits from Ringo.
Derringer's unmatched guitar skills were showcased by his delivery of "Hang On Sloopy," which was one of the best songs of the night, and one of the few songs to top a Beatles song on the billboard charts, even if it only lasted a week -- a fact that Derringer proudly shared with the audience. He also shared with the audience the song's second verse, which had been removed by producers when it was first recorded. Winter's "Frankenstein," Wright's "Dream Weaver," Palmer's "Talking in Your Sleep," and Page's "Kyrie" were among the dozen numbers the band played. "Back off Boogaloo," "Yellow Submarine," and "Peacedream" were several of the songs led by Ringo. (Click here for the full 2010 setlist)
Shortly after the concert began, Ringo (and several fans' posters) revealed that it was his 70th birthday. "As you can see, I'm wearing all my birthday gifts," the singer joked, pointing to his rhinestone-emblazoned t-shirt, black blazer with a rhinestone lapel, and flashy belt buckle.
Simply put, the entire concert was a whirlwind out-of-body experience. There were several times where I had to remind myself, I'm sitting ten rows away from some of the greatest rock stars of all time. But nothing compared the last fifteen or so minutes of the concert.
For what seemed to be the final song of the evening, Ringo and the All-Starrs took the stage and began to play "With a Little Help from My Friends," which Ringo introduced as a song that hadn't gone over too well before (jokingly, of course). Ringo's son Zak Starkey took control of the drums shortly after the song began, which gave the audience a strange suspicion that something was amiss. At the start of the first chorus, a crowd of musicians from some of the greatest bands of all time walked out on stage and turned the song into a massive sing-a-long. Yoko Ono, who spent most of her time on stage dancing, gave Ringo a mid-song birthday shout-out. An official list of those on stage has not been released, but Joe Walsh, Angus Young, Nils Lofgren, Jon Bon Jovi, Mick Jones, Steve Van Zandt, Brian Johnson, Max Weinberg, and Jeff Lynne were among the many dancing, smiling, and laughing on stage.
It seemed as if the night couldn't get any more memorable, but the audience soon learned that the best had yet to come. The on-stage sing-a-long participants shuffled into the wings as Ringo's wife and mullet-coiffed grandchildren wheeled out a life-sized drumset cake. The singer proceeded to blow out the candles and spear the cake with his drumsticks due to his lack of a knife, followed by the crowd crooning a discombobulated rendition of "Happy Birthday."
The cake and grandchildren were moved offstage while audience members were left standing, trying to process all of the amazingness that had just occurred. Mere seconds later, a roadie ran out with a bass guitar that looked all too familiar. A few rockstars returned to the stage and Sir Paul McCartney bounced out from stage left. Ringo ran out from the opposite side with a look of unadulterated joy on his face and took his position at the drumset.
The audience was instantly brought to their feet and an overwhelming roar filled the auditorium and remained as such for the entirety of McCartney's performance of "Birthday." When I was eight years old I saw a BBC documentary on the Beatles. There was video footage from a concert during the height of Beatlemania that showed fans crying and screaming incessantly. I remember being awestruck by the fact that a group of four men could have such a passionate following. In my eyes, 'N Sync was the greatest band of all time, but their fans were not even close to those of the Beatles. I was aware of the Beatles' unmatched influence on the world, but it wasn't until Wednesday that it really clicked. The screams from the audience were exactly like those of the fans in the documentary. I got chills, to say the least.
(My apologies for the poor picture quality. It's hard to see over a sea of heads when you're 5'0" and in the middle of a giant dance party)
When the song was over, Ringo hopped down from his drum perch and hugged his surprise guest. A choked-up Paul leaned into the microphone and said, "Happy Birthday, Ringo," his voice wavering. Ringo admitted that Paul's appearance was a shock to him, and it was later revealed that Paul flew in to New York for the sole purpose of singing at Ringo's concert.
At 11:30 at night on Tuesday, I came across tickets to the Wednesday performance of Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band. I almost didn't go, partially because I prefer smaller concert venues (my father's music snobbery has rubbed off on me), and partially because I wasn't sure what to expect. Ringo and his friends put on the best concert I will ever see in my life. I feel honored to have shared Ringo's 70th birthday with him and so many other Beatles fans, and I can only hope to look as good as Ringo does on my 70th birthday.