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.
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
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.