Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 17, 2017)
An all-star lineup of musicians takes the stage for Change Begins Within. This program brings us to a 2009 concert intended to support the David Lynch Foundation.
Moby, Bettye LaVette and the TM Choir launch the show with “Trouble So Hard/Natural Blues”, and then Eddie Vedder plays “Rise”. Ben Harper joins Vedder for “Under Pressure” before Harper pairs with Sheryl Crow for “My Sweet Lord”.
After a brief routine from Jerry Seinfeld, Harper, Donovan and Jim James do “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, and then Donovan and Paul Horn play “Isle of Islay”. Vedder, Harper and Ringo Starr perform “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Boys” before Crow joins those three for “Yellow Submarine”.
As the show heads toward its end, Paul McCartney gives us “Drive My Car”, “Jet”, “Got to Get You Into My Life”, “Let It Be”, “Here Today” and “Band On the Run”. Starr joins McCartney for “With a Little Help From My Friends” and the ensemble comes out with McCartney for “Cosmically Conscious”. Host David Lynch reads “A Poem of Unknown Origin” before McCartney/ensemble finish with “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Note that this doesn’t represent the entire concert. By my count, it leaves off 13 songs, including three from McCartney’s set.
That’s a shame, as Change doesn’t need to chop off so much material. The DVD runs a mere 86 minutes, so it’s not like the disc couldn’t fit a whole lot more music.
At least what we get mostly seems good, with the caveat that the viewer will embrace the artists he/she most enjoys more than the others, of course. I gave Change a look for its Beatle factor, so that area became most important to me.
Change doesn’t represent the last time McCartney and Starr performed on stage together, as they paired for a few brief occasions since 2009. Still, it offers a rare chance to see the two surviving Beatles with each other, and that makes it special.
Does it mean the performances live up to hopes? On their own, both McCartney and Starr sound pretty good, and in a twist, McCartney provides the better vocals of the two.
Paul’s voice has deteriorated a lot over the years, and I won’t claim that Macca circa 2009 was anywhere close to Macca circa 1976 - or even Macca circa 2002>.
Still, McCartney’s vocals hold up well here. 2009 or so may be the last time he still had fairly strong range and tone, as he’s gotten much reedier and weaker since then.
Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy McCartney concerts. I just know that his vocals have sagged quite a lot over the last decade or so.
Which makes the strength of Paul’s singing here a pleasant surprise – and the relative weakness of Ringo’s vocals a disappointment. Granted, Starr never had a great voice, but he sounds rougher and weaker than anticipated.
Maybe Ringo just had an off night. In any case, his songs still are fun, and I like the story he tells of writing “It Don’t Come Easy” with George Harrison.
Musically, McCartney offers the best set of the night, though that’s partly because he gets so much more time on stage than anyone else. Even though this DVD abbreviates his performance, Paul still has a lot more material on display than the others, and he backs up his appearance with good renditions of the various songs.
Diehards like me will feel most pleased to get “Cosmically Conscious”. A B-side from 1993, it’s not a great song, but it’s massively obscure – in a set packed with classics, Beatle nerds like me love the opportunity to hear something so “off the beaten path”.
Of course, the evening’s big attraction becomes the pairing of McCartney and Starr for “Friends”. Does their performance of the song dazzle? No – it’s more than competent, but it doesn’t blow the roof off the place.
Except it kind of does, solely because the sight of Paul and Ringo together on stage is so rare – and so magical. We all know John and George are gone, and we all know neither Paul nor Ringo is getting any younger, so a view of McCartney and Starr as a pair becomes magical. I even got a little emotional – maybe I should take less estrogen.
As for the other performances, they’re good. Crow’s take on “My Sweet Lord” seems oddly toothless, but a fairly dynamic Harper/Vedder “Under Pressure” compensates, and I think the remaining tunes/renditions work fine.
I feel a bit less wild about Michael Dempsey’s directorial choices. Actually, he presents the concert in a fairly meat and potatoes manner, so I have no real complaints – we’re not stuck with quick-cuts or weird effects to “enliven” the evening.
Even so, the result seems a little flat. Dempsey definitely relies on too many shots of the crowd, and those distract from the action onstage.
Still, Change mostly offers a good reproduction of a memorable evening. Should the DVD give us the whole concert? Yes, but we get a nice collection of highlights at least, and that’s fairly satisfying.