Last Night: Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Hard Rock Live, Thursday, July 15

Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band

Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood
Thursday, May 15, 2010

Since the late '80s, Ringo Starr has assembled an ever-shifting combo of retro rock veterans, and last night's show at the Hard Rock suggests the formula is still intact.

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But for anyone who's seen the Ringo revue more than once, it may be getting kind of stale. Having just turned 70 years old at the beginning of the month, Ringo's still an enthusiastic showman. However, his sidekicks are no longer the A-List line-up of years past. Where once Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, Jack Bruce and Dr. John filled his ranks, we now get a former member of Mr. Mister, the one-time leader of the Romantics, return appearances by Edgar Winter and Gary Wright, and the

ever-reliable Rick Derringer, a terrific guitarist possessing a less

than impressive stash of songs.

At best, the All-Starr show is a glorified oldies revue brimming

with obligatory hits, albeit all very well recreated. Derringer's

exceptional guitar coda on "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" did stretched the

boundaries a bit, and Winter's replay of "Frankenstein" became

something of a tour de force in terms of both its length and his agility

in switching from synth to sax to percussion. But the selections,

particularly Ringo's, vary little from the original renditions. Yes,

Richard Page was as effusive as ever in his re-dos of Mr. Mister's two

biggest hits, "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings," and Wally Palmer milked the

giddy enthusiasm of his two Romantics entries, "Talking in Your Sleep"

and "That's What I Like About You," but I couldn't help the feeling that

we've all been there and heard that. When Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver"

becomes the most cerebral offering of the night... well suffice it to

say, the material has been stretched a bit too thin.

That said, there's no denying the sheer excitement of simply being

in the presence of a Beatle and Ringo milks that association to the max.

An amiable host and reliable cheerleader, he does his best to break

down the barriers between his rarified status and his adoring audience

with off-the cuff humor ("I'd like to thank the nine of you who bought

my new album") and knowing nods to the crowd. That's all part of his

charm, and in that area, he has ample ability. It's also to his credit

that he still spends plenty of time behind the drum kit, even though his

wingman is the exceptional Greg Bissonette, one of the best drummers in

the business. However, Ringo's repertoire is decidedly limited; with

the exception of two tracks from the latest album and another from the

one before that, his stash of songs is the same as it's been from the

beginning - chiefly "It Don't Come Easy," "Photograph," "Boys," "Honey

Don't," Back Off Boogaloo," the surefire sing-along, "Yellow Submarine,"

and the inevitable closer," With a Little Help From My Friends." Even

his stage patter has stayed the same. Yes, we know your name is Ringo.

Why make the call and response? Is your ego really in such severe need

of affirmation?

Ringo has always had something to prove. Derided by some as the

least talented Beatle, he was the one member of the quartet who appeared

to be riding on the others' collective coat tails. That was, of course,

an unfair assessment; although he was mainly relegated to a supporting

role, his playing was imaginative and intuitive, and it had a decided

impact on the group's remarkable arrangements. In fact, after listening

to his contributions to such landmark LPs as Sgt. Pepper, Abbey

Road, Revolver and Rubber Soul -- not to mention the

singles "Rain," "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Paperback Writer" --

there can be little doubt about the man's competence and creativity.

However, as a solo artist, Ringo's output has been uneven at best.

For every artistic success - the Ringo album, early singles

"Photograph" and "It Don't Come Easy" - there have been the absolute

embarrassments of Ringo's Rotogravure, Sentimental Journey,

and Ringo the 4th. Recent albums have seen modest improvement -

his latest Y Not is a decidedly mixed bag, although it does

include the irresistibly infectious "Walk With You" - but the suspicion

that he's at his best when glomming onto others continues to shadow him.

His most prominent achievements have been in the company of his various

musical friends, be it other Beatles or his numerous super star


The All-Starr Band was a novel concept at first, and the aging and

always changing members got the opportunity to reclaim some glory and

replay their two or three biggest hits in front of adoring audiences.

With Ringo's limited repertoire - a handful of Beatles gems, his own

occasional solo hits - it became the perfect way to flesh out the

program and add a heap of nostalgia besides.

So, OK, perhaps a review of Ringo and company's show last night

shouldn't be approached with such critical commentary. It's all about

entertainment, and despite the imploring for peace and love, this is

really the essence of escapism. It's worth noting that he didn't mention

the word "Beatles" once, although he jokingly alluded to his pre-Fab

Four combo, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Ringo's role in his "other

band" definitely makes his appearances awe-worthy, no matter how well

worn his shtick has become over the past twenty years.

Still, despite his signature song being "It Don't Come Easy," he

sometimes makes it look a little too easy. And that finds Ringo's road

show coasting on autopilot.

Personal bias: Yes, Ringo could have revisited less-worn

Beatles standards like "Octopus' Garden" and "Good Night." On the other

hand, what else can he offer? "Don't Pass Me By"?

Random detail: Judging by the All-Starr Band's current

musical make-up, the ability to dredge up at least two familiar oldies

appears as important a qualification as being able to augment the


By the way: Ringo needs some coaching from a choreographer.

The best move he manages is sashaying back and forth, waving his arms

with the rhythm.

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