Ringo Starr's 70th birthday concert: Guests galore, and Paul McCartney, too!

Ringo-Starrs-70th-birthdayImage Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.comThe cake had been served, the candles had been blown out, and Ringo Starr had all but told the sold-out crowd at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall to go home, but the most exciting part of his 70th birthday show last night was still to come. That was the exact moment, right around 10 p.m., that none other than Paul McCartney bounded on stage in his skinny tie and fitted suit. The art-deco hall filled with 1964-style squeals as Sir Paul tore through the Beatles’ “Birthday” with the wild-eyed drive of someone decades younger.

McCartney’s unannounced appearance was the perfect end to an evening of festive collaboration. Ringo calls his touring act the All-Starr Band for a reason: They’re all handpicked veterans of bands from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. In between his solo hits (“Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy”) and Beatles classics (“Yellow Submarine,” “Act Naturally,” “Boys”), he gave each of his bandmates ample time to demonstrate their own claims to fame. Keyboardist/saxophonist Edgar Winter led electrifying renditions of “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” Guitarist Rick Derringer of the McCoys rocked “Hang On Sloopy.” The Romantics’ Wally Palmar told us “What I Like About You.” Mr. Mister’s Richard Page spread his “Broken Wings.” Gary Wright crooned “Dreamweaver,” which he said was inspired by a book on Eastern philosophy that George Harrison once gave him. (“George Harrison never gave me no damn book,” cracked Ringo.) I’m not sure I’d sit through an entire concert by any of those guys’ original groups, but seeing them run through their hits with Ringo was fun — a classic-rock radio revue with one of history’s greatest beat-keepers behind the kit. Starr himself was as energetic as any 70-year-old I’ve ever encountered, grooving gamely at front stage or drumming with that familiar head-bobbing enthusiasm.

Halfway through a Mr. Mister song, my mother and I noticed the E Street Band’s Stevie Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren and ELO’s Jeff Lynne simultaneously leaving their seats a few rows ahead of us. For a moment I thought they must not be big “Broken Wings” fans, but of course they were only heading backstage. A few numbers later, Starr said he wanted to play a tune that he was considering cutting from his set list due to lukewarm crowd reactions. The song was “With A Little Help from My Friends.” Oh, Ringo, you joker! This was the cue for a cavalcade of celebs to join him. Seeing Starr giddily jam with Van Zandt, Lofgren, Lynne, Yoko Ono, Joe Walsh, and quite a few others is not a sight I’ll soon forget.

My mother and I had been hoping all along that McCartney might pop up. He was conveniently in between tour dates in London and San Francisco this week, and 70 is a big birthday. But “With A Little Help” transitioned into a sweet singalong of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” followed by a spontaneous crowd rendition of “Happy Birthday” and the aforementioned cake and candles, and Macca was nowhere to be seen. Oh well. Who could complain after all those other guests? And then he turned up after all. His “Birthday,” with Walsh on wicked lead guitar, was the best possible way to end that show. Afterward, teary hugs were exchanged between McCartney, Starr, and Ono. McCartney softly repeated the words “Happy birthday to you” into the microphone. The appreciative surprise on his old friend’s face looked altogether genuine.

And so, for the second time in as many years, the two surviving Beatles shared a concert stage. (The same stage, as it happens.) My mom, who never got to see them when she was a teenaged fan in the ’60s, was pretty psyched to be there. So was I. On our way out from the venue, someone was raving about “history in the making.” Were any of you lucky enough to see last night’s show? If not, console yourself with the extremely shaky fan video of “Birthday” below. UPDATE: Replaced with a much clearer fan video.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • Lorie

    You lucky dog! I’m so glad Paul made it to the party. I bet that warmed Ringo’s heart big time!

    • barberus

      His hair is quite dark for a 70-year-old.

  • sparkle the gym bag

    going to see Ringo Sunday night in Durham, NC can’t wait!

    • RLH

      ME TOO! Ringo on Sunday and then going to Charlotte to see Paul on the 28th. CAN’T WAIT! :)

  • Ele

    God, how I wished I was there! So nice of Paul to show and great to hear Ringo has still so much energy!Love and peace!

    • Megan

      do you like the beatles?

  • Megan

    Today is my mom’s birthday,the day after Ringo’s.Keep Rocking Paul and Ringo!!!

    • Comixchick

      Hey, it’s my birthday, too, yeah!

    • Rock Golf

      They said it’s your birthday.
      Happy birthday to you.

  • BillandBen

    Sir Topham Hatt was cross that his favorite narrator left Sodor for this little shindig. James and Edward wept. Thomas brought cheer. But Gordon, as was usual, was full of himself, stating aloud to the others: “Ringo isn’t needed when an express such as myself is here to do the hard work.” But Alec Baldwin phoned in, so all is well in the magical land where dreams come true.

  • simon’s mom

    It was a spectacular night – and I’m still flying! Never thought back in ’64 that I’d be seeing Paul and Ringo with my son in 2010 – thank you Simon!!

  • Gene Brady

    it was unbelievable, just being their, with all these fans to see Ringo on his 70th birthday! An amazing disply of musicianship, a really special night!

    • Alexis

      Generation gap- maybe. However, the majority of the music I lsiten to was originally recorded in the 50 s and 60 s so your argument really doesn’t hold water Rick. There’s a lot of music from that era that I enjoy, the beatles just don’t happen to be part of it.

  • bojo

    Ironically, on the White Album “Birthday” track, Paul is playing drums after Ringo temporarily left the band…

    • Megan

      Dont mention that Bojo~!!!
      Idoit!

    • Simon Vozick-Levinson

      Hey Bojo — that is true of a few songs on the White Album (“Back in the USSR,” etc), but I believe Ringo played drums on “Birthday.” The exact lineup for some of those ’68 sessions is still debated, though, so who knows.

      • z

        I’m pretty sure it’s only “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence”, which are the first two tracks on the album.

      • Color Me Impressed

        Mr. Vozick-Levinson, I know this is a bit off topic, but I was wondering: could tell me what type of degree and other requirements would be necessary to pursue a career in the field of music journalism?

    • Jules

      Who cares? Just listen and enjoy. The music’s all good.

    • Anonymous

      Birthday Personnel:Personnel
      Paul McCartney – vocal, piano, handclaps
      John Lennon – vocal, backing vocal, lead guitar, handclaps
      George Harrison – 6-string bass, handclaps
      Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, handclaps
      Patti Harrison – backing vocal, handclaps
      Yoko Ono – backing vocal, handclaps
      Mal Evans – handclaps

    • LarryInDanbury

      That’s not true….Paul played drums on Back in the USSR and Dear Prudence, but no other tracks on the White Album. That’s Ringo’s backbeat.

  • Nancy

    Thanks for sharing that! Enjoyed all the details very much!

  • Megan

    I wish I could’ve seen Paul and Ringo play because I’m a big Beatles Fan!!! But I was’ntt born in the 70’s or 60’s I was born in the 90’s.Well Yesterday I did kept telling my sister it’s Ringo’s birthday until she got annoyed to death.I told everyone I know and some I didn’t know, but who cares it’s the Beatles.I still try everyday to keep them posted so I know when it’s their birthday. I already know Paul’s,George’s,and Ringo’s have past.So John’s is next, and he is turning 70 this year.Well All I Really Want to Say
    Is:HAPPY BIRTHDAY RINGO!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your Biggest Fan Ever of All Time,
    Megan F. G/NV

  • Jules

    Happy Birthday Mr. Starkey!!

  • will

    Isn’t that lovely, just before this video clip ends, the camera operator almost gets a clear and steady shot. I really wish professional companies, wouldn’t use amateur footage.

  • Peter Schultheis

    Yes, Virginia, there is a God! Having only learnt* of the event hours before, I nonetheless was lucky enough to procure a ticket! A lifelong dream, and what better occasion to fulfil* it! And Paul’s appearing on stage as an “encore” was almost too good to be true. Thanks, Ringo, for not “passing me by”. (*British spelling in Ringo’s honour*)

  • JPX

    Whoever shot this must’ve been sitting on a jackhammer. I couldn’t even get through it. I have a headache now.

    • Megan

      Same with me.

  • Amanda

    That is just SO awesome Paul came on stage and did that for Ringo!!! I was hoping that would happen and it just totally awesome that it did!!! Happy 70th Birthday Ringo!!!

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