Last week we saw Ringo Starr & his All Starr Band at a small (1,800 seat) theater in New Jersey. Ringo has toured every couple years with his All Starr Band; in his words "everybody on stage is a star in their own right." The band plays together throughout the concert, with each of the members doing some of their own hits in between the Ringo songs. The members of the Band have changed with each tour, though there have been a few performers, like Edgar Winter, who have been included on a number of tours.
The short review is this - Ringo Starr is a very amiable guy who obviously likes to interact with the audience, and the audience seems to love him. He performs his own songs well, and he does justice to the Beatles numbers he performs - he’s a pleasure to watch. The All Star Band, notably Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer, are incredible musicians. Edgar Winter remains one of the most amazing musical performers ever, and Rick Derringer (with who I was unfamiliar before this concert) is among the great rock guitarists. If you’re looking for 2 hours of solid entertainment, then don’t miss Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band if they come your way - after all, how often do you get to see a genuine Beatle, and considering Ringo was turning 70 the day after we saw him, how long do you think you’ll get that chance?
And the detailed review . . . .
And first let me say, I have always been a Beatles fan. I was in 8th grade when they hit our shores and, like all my friends, I grew Beatle hair, got Beatle boots and bellbottoms (but somehow the girls weren’t running screaming after me and my friends like they were after Paul and John). So I was a Beatle fan, but not necessarily a Ringo fan.
My impression of Ringo was always that he seemed to be along for the “John & Paul Ride”. He sat back there and banged his drums while John & Paul wrote and sang all the songs. He clowned around with reporters during interviews. Many years later, in 2003 when the nine-part Beatles Anthology Documentary was released, I learned that my impression of Ringo had been wrong all along. Paul’s comments revealed what an essential part of the band Ringo had been, how what was missing in the early years was a superior drummer, how much the Beatles wanted Ringo, a gifted drummer with an established reputation, to join them. (George Harrison’s comments revealed how difficult it was for himself, and presumably Ringo, to flourish artistically while the John & Paul collaboration was going on.)
Ringo . . .
To say I was a little surprised when Ringo came onstage is an understatement. The crowd (including me) jumped to their feet for the longest, loudest, standing ovation I have ever witnessed – and he hadn’t even played one number! I guess Beatlemania endures all these years later.
He opened with “It Don’t Come Easy”, standing at the front of the stage with a mike, and it was readily apparent that he actually could sing these numbers live, and was having a good time doing it. It was a little strange seeing Ringo as the frontman for the band – but he performed about half his numbers that way, and the other half from behind his drum kit.
He did a great job with the “Ringo songs” – “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Act Naturally”, “Photograph” and some songs off his recent album “Y Not” which were, incidentally, very good. But as you can imagine, the audience just went nuts when he did Beatle songs - “Yellow Submarine”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, etc. He finished the concert with a medley of “A Little Help From My Friends” which morphed into “Give Peace A Chance”.
Ringo was thoroughly entertaining and engaging. He looks good, seems to be in great shape, and was having a fun time himself. I really enjoyed his parts of the concert (much more than I thought I would).
Edgar Winter . . .
Whoa. This guy’s the real deal. At the Harley factory in Milwaukee they say “If you cut him, he bleeds black & orange” to describe a person who's a Harley guy through and through . . . and I’m pretty sure if you cut Edgar Winter, he would bleed notes and chords.
I saw him open for the Allman Brothers 40 years ago, and he literally stole the show. And he hasn’t lost anything.
He played keyboards, synthesizer and sax for Ringo and all the others, and did an amazing job. He performed two of his own numbers, Free Ride and Frankenstein, but those alone were worth the price of admission. Maybe you’ve never seen him perform Frankenstein - - he plays the synthesizer, then jumps on the sax, and the drums - - he’s all over the stage like a man on fire playing instruments as well as the best you’ve ever heard. And his ability to play synthesizer and keyboards live is unmatched by anyone.
I came away feeling like I did 40 years ago – thinking I had seen the most talented musical performer alive. Or at least the most talented musical performer I’ve ever seen.
Rick Derringer . . .
OK, I’ll admit I didn’t know who he was, at least by name. He was the lead singer and guitarist for The McCoys, who did “Hang On Sloopy” back in the day, then he went on to a solo career which included hits like “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”.
He did a great job with his hits, but what got me was . . . . I’ve seen a lot of people over the years play hard rock guitar, and many many who try to play like Jimi Hendrix, but somehow they always sound like they’re “trying” to play like Hendrix. Well, this is another guy who’s the real deal . . . if you closed your eyes during his guitar solos you would have sworn you were listening to Hendrix.
Wally Palmar . . .
I was also unfamiliar with him . . . he was the lead singer for the 80’s group The Romantics. He did a great job on guitar throughout the concert, and has the kind of likable personality that lets him get the crowd going. He had the crowd on it’s feet and singing to The Romantics big hit “What I Like About You”.
Gary Wright . . .
He wrote and sang “Dream Weaver” in 1976. And he told us this interesting story of how he was in India with George Harrison (yeah sure, exactly how many people were with the Beatles in India??!! – but since Ringo was sitting there listening, I think we can assume it’s true), and how he and George were studying with some maharishi, or bhagwan, or yogi, and in his notes about the topic wrote the words, “dream weaver”, which led to . . .
Anyway, he did a great job performing the song (which was clearly enhanced by the participation of Edgar Winter, who was able to perform all the sort of psychedelic keyboard stuff flawlessly). He also played keyboards throughout the concert, but was obscured from view behind speakers, and was even more obscured by the presence of Winter on keyboards and synthesizer.
Richard Page . . .
Also unfamiliar with him . . . he was the lead vocalist for the late 80’s group Mr. Mister, whose big hits were “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie”. Page did a great job on guitar, and on his songs . . . but his songs seemed a little out of context in such a high energy upbeat setlist.
Greg Bissonette . . .
Professional drummer. Mirrors everything Ringo does on drums, except when Ringo is at the front of the stage singing into the mike, which is of course why Bissonette is there.
The crowd . . . It was a good crowd, who loved Ringo, and also loved Edgar. Interestingly, the crowd was older than you would see at a McCartney concert, where you always seem to see little kids – there were no little kids here. (Maybe because it was a small theater and pricey?). This is not to say it was all old farts like me – Rashmika was, coincidentally, born the very month the Beatles released their first top twenty hit, “Love Me Do”, and she was still a little kid when the Beatles broke up, and she was clapping and singing Yellow Submarine along with Ringo!
One of the most entertaining concerts I’ve ever been to and I will absolutely see the All Starr Band again if they ever come back this way.