It’s not a terribly original thing to say you love the musical legacy of the Beatles. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when you consider that almost 50 years after they recorded their last note, few bands have even come close to equaling what they achieved. So when presented with the opportunity of seeing and reviewing one of the two surviving Beatles at fairly late notice, who was I to not grab the chance with both hands?
Ringo Starr and his (occasionally changing) All Starr Band rolled into Worcester, MA on a Saturday evening on June 11th to be greeted by a warm and enthusiastic crowd at the DCU Center. Ringo has been on the road with a rotating cast of well-known band members, which since the late ‘80s has numbered rock luminaries including Joe Walsh, Dr. John, Clarence Clemons, Rod Argent, Ian Hunter, John Entwistle, Levon Helm, Jack Bruce and the list goes on. What ultimately follows is a night of songs everyone with a pulse is most likely to know.
The show kicked off a little later than planned, after it took a bit longer to get everyone into the venue through new enhanced security measures. I guess this is an unfortunate sign of the times we live in and given what transpired later that night in Orlando, I will never complain about a venue taking measures to ensure the safety of the audience.
Opening with the Carl Perkins standard “Matchbox”, next was the George Harrison penned “It Don’t Come Easy”, swiftly followed by early Beatles country dabbling, “What Goes On”. After this Ringo finally took his more traditional place behind a Ludwig drum kit as the show changed pace with Todd Rundgren (Utopia & solo), Greg Rowley (Santana), Richard Page (Mr Mister) and Steve Lukather (Toto) in turn singing hits from their own illustrious careers. Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham (Toto & Donna Summer) completes the current lineup on sax, keys and percussion.
That’s one of the great aspects of how well a Ringo show will entertain those in attendance. Here is a Beatle no less, sharing his spotlight with other seasoned musicians and every song is a classic in someone’s eyes and ears. I could be critical of some of the material in the set, not personally being a fan of all the bands represented, but that’s not the spirit which the show imbues. Whether “Africa” or “Broken Wings” are to your personal taste becomes irrelevant in the course of the show as all songs are played very well and the added bonus of watching Ringo and the incredible Greg Bisonette drumming in synch and stereo with each other. Richard Page and Steve Lukather both played and sang as well as ever.
The man once known as Richard Starkey has always promoted the values of ‘Peace & Love’ throughout his career. It could be argued that his musical contribution to the Beatles is less celebrated than he deserves. Let’s face it, without his personality and unique playing style, they would have been a much different band. It’s worth remembering that he was probably the most experienced musician among them when they poached him from Rory Storm & The Hurricanes. That band got a namecheck when Ringo launched into the song “Boys”, which was one of the surprise highlights of the set and maybe his strongest vocal performances of the night, alongside a recently revived, “You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine”.
A further string of Beatle gems were played in the set that followed: “Don’t Pass Me By” (the only Lennon-McCartney-Starr composition), “Yellow Submarine”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, but “Octopus’s Garden” was most surprising by its absence. It was a nice touch to hear “I Am the Greatest”, which John Lennon wrote for Ringo at the time of his debut solo album.
On a musical level, The All Starr Band do live up to their name, not only when playing their own individual hits, but also on Ringo’s, of course. There was a constant sense of fun, camaraderie and professionalism coming from the stage for the whole show which was surely reflected in the sizeable audience. The climax of the main set could only be Starr’s iconic Sgt Pepper tune “With a Little Help From My Friends”, which brought the house to their feet for the umpteenth time of the evening. Ringo exited stage right, but returned once more to send the satisfied fans home with the refrain of his fallen brother John’s “Give Peace a Chance”. A fitting end since Ringo has carried John’s core message of “Peace and Love” with him every night he takes to the stage.