Ringo Starr and His All Star Band Gig Review
By: Bob Gersztyn
On Tuesday night, October 18, 2016 Ringo Starr and His “All Star Band” performed at Keller auditorium in downtown Portland, Oregon. It’s one of the most acoustically perfect venues in the city and has a capacity of only 3,000 people, so it’s semi-intimate. Ringo Starr, whose real name is Richard Starkey, is an icon and one of the most famous drummers in the 65 year history of rock & roll, since Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 was released in 1951. The Beatles broke up nearly 50 years ago, but the impact of their decade long existence continues to impact music around the globe through the ripple effect of the albums they created and artists that they influenced.
I once heard an interview with Ringo where he said that he preferred to be part of a band, rather than be a solo artist, which is the reason why he came up with the idea of forming the “Allstars.” Over the past 25 years there have been a dozen different incarnations of the band, as the lineup periodically changed. The present lineup has been touring together for the past 5 years and includes representatives from hit bands, “Toto, “Mr. Mister, Journey, Santana, Kansas and Todd Rundgren. The set list was made up of Beatles and Ringo tunes along with a variety of radio hits from all the other artists in the band, who were all initially influenced by Ringo and his band mates the Beatles.
The concert began with 1964’s Beatles cover of Carl Perkins song, “Matchbox,” as Ringo took center stage and sang lead into the microphone as the band jammed behind him. “It Don’t Come Easy” followed, once again featuring Ringo on lead vocals singing his first solo hit record, with the band continuing to rock the house. As the night progressed everyone took turns introducing songs, beginning with Todd Rundgren introducing his hit, “I Saw The Light,” followed by keyboardist extraordinaire, Greg Rolie a founding member of Santana and the original lead singer of “Journey,” singing lead on “Evil Ways” while jamming on the organ as guitar phenomenon Steve Lukather the original lead guitarist, singer and composer for Toto, wailed on his axe.
When the number concluded Lukather took the mike and testified to the fact that he now plays guitar because of Ringo’s influence and how great it was to now be friends with him and play in his band. All the band members praised Ringo, who finally ascended to the empty drum kit beside Gregg Bissonette, who played for everyone from David Lee Roth, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani to Toto, and held his drumsticks in the air as he humbly bowed. Lukather immediately began singing “Rosanna” with the rest of the band singing harmony and sounding as good as the original “Toto” recording.
It was a real treat to be able to see so many musical heavyweights combined in one band and led by a superheavyweight that they all respected. The repeating chorus of “Meet you all the way,” on “Rosanna” was followed by the wailing guitar of Lukather with Rundgren providing fills, while Richard Page the lead singer and bass guitarist of Mr. Mister accompanied him as woodwind, percussionist and vocalist Warren Ham brought his experience with Cher, Kansas, Donna Summer and AD into the mix as he sang and wailed on his saxophone. Ringo and Bissonette took the lead as they beat their drum kits in unison, with the rest of the band jamming behind them. Lukather and Rundgren danced around playing guitars against each other, until the entire ensemble exploded into a crescendo of sound that faded into silence.
Richard Page took the microphone and also testified of his gratitude to be playing with Ringo and then urged the audience to see Ron Howard’s new documentary about the Beatles, he said that “it was great!” Then he urged the crowd to sing with him as he began singing “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord have mercy). with the band sounding perfect as they all broke into harmonious singing, repeating the chorus “Kyrie Eleison.” Todd Rundgren grabbed a couple of snare drums on a stand and drum sticks as he asked the audience if they wanted the Kung Pow Chicken or the peppered beef. After the audience’s mixed response he announced “they wanted the peppered beef,” and began singing “Bang The Drum All Day.” The song concluded to thunderous applause that nearly brought the house down.
Ringo began to talk as the applause quieted down and said, “that would be a really good job to have to get paid to play a drum all day long. That’s what I do!” he said in mock surprise as the band dove into another Beatles hit, “Boys,” off their 1963 album Please Please Me, with Ringo singing lead and the 3 guitarists, Rundgren, Lukather and Page forming a tight trio singing harmony together, center stage. Greg Rolie broke into a raging organ solo, until Rundgren played a amped rock guitar outro concluding the song.
Ringo got up from behind the drums and walked over to a piano, where he told the audience, “when I joined the Beatles I had some songs, but none of them were recorded, until this one,” as he played the piano introduction for “Don’t Pass Me By,” his first solo composition recorded on the White double album in 1968. After handing the piano over to Warren Ham, Ringo once again took center stage holding the microphone in his hand. He broke up the audience into 3 sections and had them competing against each other by flashing peace signs. He joked about the expectations of the audience and hoped that they didn’t come for Led Zeppelin, because if they did they were in the wrong venue. This was the introduction for “Yellow Submarine,” which included more peace sign flashing and singing along with stage banter providing the diving instructions.
At that point Ringo left the stage and the band broke into “Black Magic Woman” with Rolie providing the organ intro segueing into Lukather’s guitar, until Rolie began to sing Peter Greens Fleetwood Mac Composition, made famous by Santana, “I’ve got a black magic woman….).” All 3 guitarists danced across the stage, guitars wailing up a storm as everyone jammed in time behind them, with Ham accompanying Bissonette on hand drums to drive the beat and explode into a symphony of sound that once again ended in thunderous applause.
Ringo came running back out in a new wardrobe after wearing a T-shirt with vest and sports jacket, he was now wearing a T-shirt with a polka dot long sleeved shirt. He took center stage and entreated the audience, “what’s my name?” “Ringo!” The audience shouted “Ringo” in unison, but Ringo said that they needed to try again, because there were 4 people that didn’t participate, so the “Ringo” shout was repeated. This led into Ringo’s 1973 #1 radio hit “You’re Sixteen.” Once again Ringo ascended the stage to his drum kit. Richard Page put on an acoustic guitar and began singing his song “You Are Mine,” a country sounding number with Lukather getting a steel guitar sound out of his “LIII” Music Man guitar. Ringo sat on an amplified box and played it with his hands pounding between his legs.
Ringo got back on the drum kit and pounded out the introduction to “Africa,” and I don’t think that the original lineup of Toto could have done a better rendition of the tune, with Lukather singing lead and Ham wailing on his alto sax. Greg Rolie provided mesmerizing organ runs and then took the lead and began the organ intro to “Oya Coma Va,” as the band began playing behind him, with Lukather wailing on guitar. He is an amazing guitarist. Ringo took over as the band dove into “I Want To Be Your Man, featuring both drummers playing in loud driving unison as everyone jammed and Todd Rundgren ran up and down the stage playing guitar. By the time that Rundgren caught his breath the band began “Love Is The Answer,” a song with a utopian message by his band of the same name, that he wrote and recorded and was later made a hit as a cover in 1979, by England Dan and John Ford Coley the audience was melded into one. Richard Page took over lead vocals, as he continued to thump on the bass guitar, with Steve Lukather continuing to amaze this writer with his prowess. the entire band was so tight that it brought tears to my eyes. The song broke into an extended jam interplay between Lukather’s guitar and the rest of the band. Then Lukather sang lead on “Hold The Line” and continued to blow everyone’s mind with his guitar virtuosity.
When the song ended Ringo descended from his drum kit and embraced Lukather, saying how much he loved and appreciated him as he once again took center stage and began to point at people in the audience, until he stopped at a guy who was waving and said, “What, you want me to stop the show to say hello to you?” in an slightly miffed voice and then said, okay, as he came down off the stage and went up to the guy and hugged him. When Ringo got back on stage another person from the audience jumped on stage and handed him some contraband that he said that he hasn’t used in about 30 years, as “Photograph” began, with Lukather and Rundgren donning acoustic guitars as Ham’s sax alternated with Ringo’s voice.
Ringo explained that “Act Naturally” was first recorded by Buck Owens in 1963, while the Beatles recorded it on their Help album in 1965 and then he and Owens recorded it together in the 1970’s and now “I’m doing it in my 90’s,” which drew laughter from the audience. When the band began playing “With A Little Help From My Friends, it was obvious that Ringo was thoroughly enjoying himself. How could he not with a packed house full of adoring fans. Ringo said goodnight, as he walked off stage with the band beginning “Give Peace A Chance.” Ringo ran on stage and then back a few times, while the band played, until the song concluded and all six musicians stepped forward and took a bow.