Ringo Starr & the All-Starr Band

So last night my husband used a birthday present and dragged me out, kicking and screaming, to a small local music theater on Long Island to see Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band.

Where we proceeded to have a great time.

The 2010 version of the band consists of Ringo, Wally Palmer of the Romantics, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Richard Page and Gregg Bissonette, and if you are inclined to think it a pathetic gathering of middle-aged (and um, older) washed-up has-beens making a last grab for glory and adulation on their way to the graveyard, you’d be selling them short. I know I was. I mean, they may be that. But they’re still good musicians.

In fact, the band is a really smart idea; why not put together a band of musicians who love to play but on their own could never fill a hall, any longer? With each band member performing several of his biggest hits, the whole night is like a greatest hits album played live with a minimum of fuss or ego.

Rick Derringer started the night off with Hang On, Sloopy, and it turned out these older rockers were all in splendid voice, managing crystal-clear, tight harmonies. Derringer and Palmer were particularly revved up, lively and in great form.

Ringo sang, too, doing particularly well with It Don’t Come Easy, which the fit-looking 70 year-old bopped to with youthful energy.

As a singer, I have always thought of Ringo as an under-appreciated drummer. He is looked down upon for his technical skills–and no, he never was a Keith Moon or a Ginger Baker–but he suited the Fab Four perfectly. In fact, rather like U2′s The Edge, Ringo Starr knew how to make his limitations work beautifully for the band, perfectly fitting his small flourishes and percussions to their not-especially complicated music. All of the Beatles were “capable,” musicians, but none of them were virtuosos on the level of a Clapton, a Page or an Allman.

Edgar Winter was all over the stage, on saxophone and keyboards and Frankenstein was a pretty impressive highlight of the show, with all the musicians doing the old classic up proud. Richard Page’s vocals on Kyrie Elision and Broken Wing sounded as youthful and pristine as they were 30 years ago.

If you get a chance to see the band, go. It’s not a “spectacular” but it’s a really fun night, with a lot of singing along, and it’s the very truth that the audience ran the gamut, from grandparents, to thirteen year olds; the show ends with A Little Help from My Friends, and as an old Lennon-McCartney song goes, a splendid time is guaranteed for all, even without Mr. Kite.

My two favorite songs of the night:

Instalanche! and thanks for the link, Glenn!

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • anniebird

    Oh, those shiny unitards and long man-bobs! Though I know “Rock N Roll Hootchie Koo”, I’ve never seen the fashion that accompanied it – now I know the origin of Spinal Tap’s costume aesthetic!

  • Grantman

    My wife and I have seen Ringo a couple of times and have even bought one of the iterations’ CDs (remember those?) I think Dr. John was in one, Rick Danko in another.

    You are absolutely right – it is a fun night. Very fun. And that’s what music is supposed to be.

    You could see the enjoyment from all the members simply having fun themselves and playing for the people who made their careers happen.

    Nice post. Weird to think of folks turning 70 now; I just heard Judy Collins interviewed on Dennis Miller’s show; she’s 70 as well.

    With regards to Ringo’s talents, he was never flashy and chose not to have solos. He was an old-time drummer, simply keeping the band solid. George Harrison once said about Starr that he had the best backbeat in the business. Who am I to disagree?

  • Old Buckeye

    Does Ringo not look fantastic for a 70-year-old dude? I still can’t shake the image of him as “Mr. Conductor” on the Thomas the Tank Engine show! He’s nothing if not versatile.
    BTW Anchoress–figured out that in my “Duh”-ness, I had AdBlocker on and that’s why I couldn’t see the Amazon link. All is well now and you will get the benefit of my shopping (although I’m not ordering any of those expensive faucet thingies!)

  • http://profmondo.wordpress.com Prof. Mondo

    As it happens, I’ve been playing drums in garage and bar bands since my teens — it helped that I was 6’2″ when I was 13. One of the funny things about Ringo — who is one of my biggest influences — is that his musicality, his ability to perfectly fit the song, obscures what are actually some pretty serious chops.

    If you don’t believe me, listen to the end of “Long Tall Sally” or the fade-out-fade-in of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Or the seamless transition from 4/4 to 3/4 in “She Said She Said”. Or the 7s and 5s in “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide” and “Good Morning Good Morning.”

    Here in Mondoville, I actually got into a public debate with a music prof about Ringo (we were on a panel screening Hard Day’s Night). In a way, Ringo’s drumming is like Willie Mays in center field or an Ali jab. Because they’re so great, they make things look far easier than they actually are.

    I saw a clinic Gregg Bissonette put on in 2002. He spent the first 20 minutes of the two hours talking about Ringo — I have no doubt he’s having the time of his life on this gig.

    And one other point for Ringo — one of the guys at the top of the rock drumming pyramid these days is Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. This guy has more chops than a butcher shop (and typically uses all of them in every song DT does), but one of his side projects, a group called Yellow Matter Custard, does Beatles covers.

    Thanks for sharing the experience, Anchoress. I’m glad you had fun — I did just reading about it.

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  • Johnny Simpson

    Ringo’s been doing the All-Star Band gig for decades. I saw them at Great Woods in MA in 1989. Back then he had Dr. John and a number of other musicians. Again, a good time was had by all. He also appears to have the smarts Paul McCartney lacks by staying away from divisive politics, which really don’t mix with rock ‘n roll. Kool Kat all around. Happy 70th, Ringo!

  • http://www.politicalbyline.com Pat in Detroit

    The bass player in that first group was gay as a four dollar bill. He died of aids back in the 1980′s.

    I forget his name.


    [So? -admin]

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  • Anne Hill

    Ringo is still 69 – his 70th birthday is July 7th

  • bt

    The great thing about the Beatles were that they enjoyed playing together, and the the lyrical content of their songs covered just about every aspect of life. I mean, who many other groups would write a song about Mean Mr. Mustard, and yet all of us as kids probably knew a mean Mr. Mustard when we were little. Or a song about Penny Lane, or a song about a paperback writer, or Eleanor Rigby, or a song about…when I’m 64, or a good day in the sunshine? They wrote about literally everthing in a way that I think no group has done since. And most of their huge catalog of songs are catchy enough you can whistle them.

    My favorite Ringo songs from his solo career were the No No Song, and Oh My My. I’m curious if either of those songs were played at the concert?

    [No, neither of them were in the concert. He did It Don't Come Easy, and Back Off Bugaloo and another one, which I can't remember, plus Yellow Submarine, Help from my friends and a few off his new album, which sort of slowed things down -admin]

  • Dan

    I don’t know why people who don’t have music credentials casually knock Ringo as a drummer or suggest that the other Beatles were just “capable” musicians playing “their not especially complicated music”. All 4 were great musicians with McCartney as a bass player arguably the best and most influential of his generation. Ringo’s drumming on A Day in the Life is perfection and I could not for the life of me see Keith Moon being able to play as well on that track which, come to think of it, has a few “complications” to it. There is a reason the Beatles sold more Cd’s over the last 10 years than all but one artist. They created the best music of the last 50+ years and they are imitated and idolized by most musicians. I’m glad you enjoyed Ringo’s show but you might try listening to their recordings so you understand musical perfection and great musicianship.

    [Why do you assume I have no musical credentials -- not professional, of course, but one doesn't need to be a professional to suggest that the Beatles were all capable musicians but not virtuoso, and I listen to their music a great deal, which is why I know Ringo is underappreciated. I have also written, here on this blog, that McCartney played some of the most musical baselines ever, in the early years. We're all entitled to our opinions, I believe, are we not? Why go into the condescending bit about how I might try listening so that I might understand. -admin]

  • kevin barry

    I had a blast when I saw the original All Starr band a LONG time ago. Good ol’ Ringo. Why isn’t he a knight? Sir Ringo has a certain flair to it!

  • http://jeffreymark.typepad.com Jeffreymark

    I started following the Beatles from day one in America. I too saw Ringo’s All-Starr band back in the 90′s with Joe Walsh, son Zak Starkey (now with the Who), Randy Bachman, and Peter Frampton. They don’t get any better than that. Elizabeth, you’re spot on when you mention Ringo’s overlooked abilities. He is an entertainer magnifique.
    The Beatles began as a British version of American Rockabilly-simple and predictable. Yet, they managed to remain on the cutting edge of creativity with the likes of Sgt. Pepper.
    I must take issue with the suggestion that virtuosity on the level of a Clapton eluded the fab four. While John, George, and Ringo merely get the job done, one might suggest that Paul McCartney is a sort of eclectic virtuoso. He certainly publishes more prolifically than Clapton, and his touch of 40′s Big Band combined with Rockabilly give him just the right combination to make him sound more musically diverse than Clapton’s bluesy staple. In addition, McCartney plays every musical instrument known to man and then some. Well, sort of. But, he does like to experiment and never runs short on confidence when offering his experimentation to the public. And, until recently he certainly was a better singer than Clapton.
    Nevertheless, thanks Elizabeth, for writing an endearing commentary concerning a well deserved musical entertainment icon.