The first thing that you might notice about Ringo Starr when he comes on stage is his magnetic personality. Having been a Beatle certainly helps, but as he runs onto the stage waving peace signs and pointing, the audience is in his grip immediately in a way that few performers can accomplish. On Friday night at the Warner Theatre, as he broke into a rocking version of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” (which The Beatles recorded with Ringo on vocals on their 1964 Long Tall Sally EP), Starr had won over the audience before he’d barely begun.
It is perhaps this magnetism that has made his All-Starr Band such a successful project over the last two and a half decades. In it, Starr collects performers from popular bands together to create a supergroup the likes of which is rarely seen. The band has been through a dozen incarnations over the years, with performers coming and going as they’ve had the time and inclination, but the band is never lacking for talent (Starr has been quoted as saying “everybody on stage is a star in their own right”). For this round, Ringo brought together guitarist Todd Rundgren, Mr. Mister bassist Richard Page, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Santana keyboardist Gregg Rolie, drummer Gregg Bissonette (who has played with David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai, amongst others), and saxophonist Warren Ham (who has played with Cher, Kansas, Donna Summer, and others).
The setlist divided about evenly between songs from The Beatles and Starr’s post-Beatles solo career, and songs from several of the other members’ own projects. For Starr’s part, the setlist included Beatles tracks such as “What Goes On,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” and “Yellow Submarine” (“if you don’t know the words to this song, you’re in the wrong building!”) and some of his better known solo tracks including “You’re Sixteen,” “I’m the Greatest,” and “Photograph.” When he wasn’t on the front line singing, Ringo took to his drum kit. Rundgren was up first, performing “I Saw the Light” from his 1972 album Something/Anything? He later returned to the forefront for two of his biggest hits, “Bang the Drum All Day” and “Love is the Answer.” Lukather took the lead on Toto’s “Rosanna,” “Africa” (which featured a sax solo by Ham which was one of the highlights of the night), and “Hold the Line.” Page performed vocals on Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” as well as “You Are Mine” from his solo album Peculiar Life, while Rolie took the lead on three Santana classics “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Oye Como Va.”
Throughout the night, Ringo’s famously cheeky sense of humor was on full display. “I might as well throw my hat in the ring!” he replied to one audience member’s “Ringo for President 2016” sign. Later, he jokingly praised the crowd – “I would say you are the best audience we’ve had all night!” Watching him as he moved all over the stage, it was hard to believe that he’s nearly 76 years old, as he showed the energy of a performer decades younger.
Starr ended the night with a rendition of one of the most popular Beatles songs that he sang on, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and encircled by the All-Starr Band it seemed to take on new meaning. In his sixth decade as a professional performer, Ringo may not be breaking new ground anymore (he did more than enough of that in his younger days), but he has surrounded himself with friends and created a celebration that centers not only around his own extensive body of work but theirs as well.