by Dan Williams
I first saw Ringo’s All-Starr Band in 1989 during its inaugural tour from the front row at Pine Knob near Detroit. I even got a high five from the ex-Beatle! It was the first year of the All-Starrs and boy, it was chock full of Stars!
That band consisted of Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren (Crazy Horse), Dr. John, Billy Preston, The Band’s Rick Danko & Levon Helm, the great Clarence Clemons and Jim Keltner on drums. What a show! The criteria to join the tour was/is that each member needs to be “a star in his own right” with hits of their own. The set list consists of about twenty-five songs with half coming from Starr’s time with the Beatles or over his solo career. The remaining 12+ songs showcase the other band members while Starr and company back them up.
On Friday night, the 2015 All-Starr band rolled into Philly’s Tower Theater. While the names of most band members are not as legendary, the 2015 troupe is still full of hit makers. Nearing the end of this tour, the band is tight, jovial with a variety of great songs to mine from the last few decades.
Members in this show were Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Todd Rundgren (“Bang the Drum All Day”), Steve Lukather (Toto), Warren Ham (sax for Toto & Kansas), Greg Rolie (Santana) and Gregg Bissonette (Ubiquitous session drummer).
Aside from a house full of starry-eyed fans there to see a legendary Beatle, it was a homecoming for Rundgren of Upper Darby, playing his home stage down the street from his boyhood home. In addition to his own bands (Nazz, Utopia), the Upper Darby High Alum gained prominence as a studio wunderkind, producing chart topping albums for the Band, Badfinger, Grand Funk Railroad, the New York Dolls, Philly’s Hall & Oates and Meatloaf’s mega-hit Bat Out Of Hell. On Friday night, he fronted the band with spot on performances of “I Saw The Light,” Utopia’s “Love Is The Answer” and brought down the house with “Bang the Drum All Day.” With his eye-chart outfit and zany antics, Rundgren elevated the fun quotient.
The other members brought their own chart toppers, including “Evil Ways,” “Kyrie,” “Rosanna,” “Black Magic Woman,” Africa” (with Starr on Cojone!) “Oyo Coma Va,” “Broken Wings” and “Hold The Line.” While the audience was there for Starr, they enjoyed each of these songs and joyfully sang along with every one.
The “Starr” of the show was, of course, former Beatle Ringo Starr. He dug way back in his catalog and had the crowd cheering at every step as he flashed peace signs and told stories of his career. Introducing The Shirelle’s cover of “Boys” from behind his familiar Ludwig kit, he teased the audience by saying he was going to go way back for a song from a band he used to be with. The crowd shook the rafters with Beatle-esque screams. When they subsided, he said “That’s right, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes!” … namechecking his pre-Beatles band to great laughter.
Other Beatles classics were “Matchbox,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Act Naturally,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “Give Peace a Chance.” He also began The Beatles’ White Album deep cut “Don’t Pass Me By” on the piano before fronting the band for a sing along. After the applause, he joked about his songwriting skills. “When I came up with the lyric ‘You were in a car crash and you lost your hair,’ all I could say was watch out Lennon and McCartney!”
Songs from his solo career were “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Island in the Sun,” “You’re Sixteen,” “I’m the Greatest,” and “Photograph,” which he co-wrote with George Harrison.
The two hour+ show was a high energy love-fest between performer and fans. Signature Peace Signs were liberally flashed along with verbal messages of love. It was a wonderful evening for audiences of all ages.
Ringo Starr is also out promoting Photograph, his new coffee table book of photos from throughout his life. Always the shutterbug, the book is filled with candids from all stages of his career, including many behind the scenes images of the Beatles as only another Beatle could capture. His latest solo release of original music, Postcards From Paradise is available on iTunes and on CD.