The Fab Two: Ringo Joins Paul McCartney on ‘Freshen Up’ Tour’s L.A. Finale

Paul McCartney in Paris

Paul McCartney playing Paris’ La Défense Arena, on Nov. 28th as part of his “Freshen Up Tour.”

Half the Beatles is better than 100% of most any other band. At least that was the sentiment at a rocking and sold-out Dodger Stadium Saturday night (July 13) where tens of thousands of fans lost their minds when surprise guest Ringo Starr came out for the encore of Paul McCartney’s “Freshen Up” tour finale.

Following an ebullient version of “Birthday,” from 1968’s The White Album, Sir Paul announced a surprise guest would be joining him on the next song. As Starr unexpectedly walked out, the stadium roared with excitement at the sight of two former Beatles who exchanged hugs and a couple of “peace,” “loves” and “brothers” while a Ludwig drum kit was rolled onto the stage. Ringo quickly ascended to the drum throne to pound out a faithful rendition of “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Reprise),” the abbreviated outro (before “A Day In The Life”) off the Fab Two’s 1967 touchstone album. This while the background video screen displayed dynamic images from the record’s Grammy-winning cover art by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake.
The minute-long song rolled into a foot-stomping take of “Helter Skelter,” the legendary band’s hardest rock song, also from the The White Album, providing a perfect platform for a double drum attack of Starr and stellar tour drummer Abraham Laboriel.

While the appearance of half the Fab Four would be enough for any Beatlemaniac, Joe Walsh’s surprise walk-on for the sublime side-two Abbey Road medley was more manna from heaven. The legendary James Gang and Eagles guitarist, clad in leather pants and holding a light blue Stratocaster, came out to trade loose guitar licks during “The End” with Macca and his phenomenal touring guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray. At one point Walsh invoked the crazily-bended opening lick off the James Gang’s classic “Funk #49.”

The night’s other highlights, besides every Beatles track, included a horn section making a dramatic entrance down the stadium stairs above Dodger Stadium’s home plate during Wings’ “Letting Go;” tributes to George Harrison (including a ukulele version of “Something”) and John Lennon; and especially McCartney’s extended stories.

Those included: a tale about Jimi Hendrix playing the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in a London club two days(!) after the album was released and trying to get Eric Clapton to tune his wrecked guitar; another introducing a song by the Quarrymen (the pre-Beatles band) “In Spite of All the Danger,” which saw member John “Duff” Lowe holding on to the song’s lone recording which McCartney had to buy back at an “inflated price;” another about playing “Back In The U.S.S.R” in Moscow’s Red Square and various Russian dignitaries saying they learned English from Beatles records (“Hello goodbye!”); and one about the nervous quiver he still hears in his voice on the 1963 recording of “Love Me Do” — which on this night the 77-year-old showed no sign of.

Beyond he and his former band’s enormous and really incalculable cultural impact, McCartney’s “Freshen Up Tour,” co-promoted by Marshall Arts and AEG Presents, has had a major impact on this year’s tour market. Launching in Canada shortly after the Sept. 7, 2018 release of his 17th solo album Egyptian Station (Capitol Records), the tour reached No. 16 on Pollstar’s 2019 Midyear Worldwide Tours chart, grossing $40.7 million and selling nearly 370,000 tickets for the charting period between Nov. 22, 2018 and May 22, 2019. This included the highest grossing stop, March 26-27 at Sao Paulo’s Allianz Parque, which brought in $9.08 million, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports.