Paul McCartney – Change Begins Within Benefit Concert (Piccadilly Circus PCCD-61/62)

Change Begins Within Benefit Concert (Piccadilly Circus PCCD-61/62)

Radio City Music Hall, New York City, NY – April 4th, 2009

Disc 1 (77:02):  MOBY 01. Natural Blues (with BETTY LAVETTE) 02. We Are All Made Of Stars (with TM KIDS CHOIR) BETTYE LAVETTE 03. As Close As I’ll Get To Heaven (with MOBY) SHERYL CROW 04. Riverwide 05. My Sweet Lord (with BEN HARPER) EDDIE VEDDER 06. Guaranteed 07. Rise 08. Arc BEN HARPER 09. Indifference (with EDDIE VEDDER) 10. Fly One Time 11. Under Pressure (with EDDIE VEDDER) DONOVAN 12. Hurdy Gurdy Man (with JIM JAMES) 13. Wear Your Love Like Heaven (with JIM  JAMES) 14. Season Of The Witch (with SHERYL CROW and MOBY) 15. Isle of Islay (with PAUL HORN) PAUL HORN 16. Meditation

Disc 2 (67:17):  RINGO STARR 01. It Don’t Come Easy (with BEN HARPER) 02. Boys 03. Yellow Submarine (with SHERYL CROW and EDDIE VEDDER) PAUL McCartney 04. Drive My Car 05. Jet 06. Got to Get You Into My Life 07. Let It Be 08. Lady Madonna 09. Blackbird 10. Here Today 11. Band on the Run 12. Can’t Buy Me Love PAUL McCARTNEY and RINGO STARR 13. With a Little Help From My Friends 14. Cosmically Conscious (with ALL PERFORMERS) 15. I Saw Her Standing There (with ALL PERFORMERS)

The Change Begins Within concert is one of the many causes supported by top flight talent.  Used to promote transcendental meditation for today’s youth, it became, as Variety writes, “this fund-raising event came across more like a telethon with particularly good production values: It was long on speeches and good intentions but short on bona fide entertainment value.”  Among lengthy and self-serving speeches by practitioners of TM including Howard Stern and Mike Love lies the musical acts beginning with Moby and ending with Paul McCartney, the living legend. 

Piccadilly Circus is the only silver pressed release of the musical portions of the concert (thankfully omitting the speeches).   The sound quality of the tape is much worse than anyone can reasonably expect in 2009.  It is distant, distorted and contains too much audience noise to really appreciate the show.  One can give the label the benefit of the doubt by saying this is the only tape source, but honestly listening to this is a chore.

The only real redeeming quality of the recording is the first and only live performance of “Cosmically Conscious.”  McCartney wrote the tune in 1968 when The Beatles were on their trip to India.  It wasn’t recored and released until 1993 when it appeared as a coda to “C’mon People” on Off The Ground and the full track released on the “Off The Ground” single.  Its sing-along style fits perfectly with the mood of the event.      

The rest of the Variety review states:  “To be sure, topliner Paul McCartney lived up to his end of the bargain when he took the stage, proffering an assortment of fan-pleasing hits and event-appropriate obscurities, but the lead-up to his evening-ending mini-set had surprisingly little punch. Sheryl Crow, for instance, was undoubtedly aiming for subdued in her interpretation of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” but she landed squarely in the midst of somnolence — terrain in which Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder likewise found himself mired.

“The ennui was highlighted by the sheer number of speeches on behalf of the program’s cause –the promotion of transcendental meditation, a spiritual effort first championed by the Beatles some four decades ago. De facto host David Lynch proved quite affable in his testimony on behalf of TM, but others called upon to testify — Howard Stern and Mike Love of the Beach Boys among them — delivered platitudes that offered little in the way of enlightenment.

“The program picked up steam after the intermission, and not simply by virtue of higher energy. The 1960s troubadour Donovan tapped into the spiritual zeitgeist with particular effectiveness, hitting a gently hypnotic groove on his handful of offerings, notably a shimmering “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” (on which he was joined by My Morning Jacket singer Jim James). Jazz flutist Paul Horn maintained that mood on an austere set anchored by a piece titled, appropriately enough, “Meditation,” but two hours into the show, Beatlemania was practically oozing from the cheap seats.

“Those filling them were rewarded by a brief, charming set by Ringo Starr, who vamped through some of his best known bits from the Fab Four repertoire, including a winsome “Yellow Submarine,” as well as a brace of his solo songs. The fuse wasn’t really lit, however, until McCartney took the stage and, with seemingly minimal effort, truly tore the roof off the sucker.

“McCartney emphasized upbeat material — “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “Jet” were especially rousing — but didn’t shy away from hitting emotional notes with songs like “Here Today” (a dedication to the late John Lennon). He drew an ovation by ushering Starr onstage again with a wry “ladies and gentlemen, Billy Shears,” but while the sight of the pair sharing a stage had some nostalgic resonance, their personal rapport was more engaging than their musical affinity, which really clicked only on a time-traveling “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

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