The Roots Report: Starry-Eyed for Ringo

Ringo Starr & His All Star Band comes to PPAC for a nostalgic night of classics

ringoOkee dokee folks … To my knowledge, a Beatle has only come to Rhode Island three times since the British Invasion of the ’60s (George, once and Ringo, now twice). I have been fortunate enough to be in the audience two out of those three times! Ringo and his All-Starr Band played to a sold-out house at PPAC on Sunday, June 15. The All-Starr Band is basically the greatest cover band of all time. Ringo lines up notable performers and they play a fun-filled set of songs by Ringo, The Beatles, classic covers, and each of the band members play a few of their own hit songs as well. This, the12th incarnation of the All-Starr Band in 25 years, included Todd Rundgren (guitar), Greg Rolie of Santana and Journey (organ), Steve Lukather of Toto (lead guitar), Richard Paige of Mr. Mister (bass), Greg Bissonette of David Lee Roth Band (drums), and Mark Rivera on vocals, sax, keys and percussion. The evening kicked off with Ringo singing his version of the Carl Perkins’ song, “Matchbox.” He then went straight into his signature song, “It Don’t Come Easy.” A little self-deprecation was used in the intro for the next song: “This is Wings, it is from my 2012 release that I think two people bought!” Finally, for the fourth song of the evening, Ringo ascended the elevated, center stage platform to play the drums and the “song rounds” began. Starting with Rundgren, the band members each took a turn performing one of their hits. The two-hour show included such classics as: “I Saw The Light,” “Bang The Drum All Day” and “Love is the Answer” from Todd Rundgren; “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” from Mr. Mister; “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna” and “Africa” from Toto; and “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” by Santana.

This was a fun show for ALL ages. It couldn’t be anything BUT fun. Most times the audience was singing along with the band. How can you hear “Yellow Submarine,” “Photograph” and “A Little Help From My Friends” and NOT sing? Ringo commented as the band started playing “Yellow Submarine,” “If you don’t know this one you are in the wrong venue!” The lighting was fun as well-projected spinning stars, peace signs and flowers kept the back wall busy. Besides Ringo, Rundgren seemed to be having the best time in the band. He has a long history in music and is a veteran of the All-Starr Band, having been part of it in at least two other versions. Greg Rolie was a fine addition to the group mostly because of his membership in the legendary group Santana. His vocals were strong and his contribution on the B3 organ was subtle but tasteful. To me, Richard Paige and Steve Lukather seemed like odd choices for an All-Starr line-up. While Toto certainly had hit songs and Lukather is a great guitarist, he didn’t really have the “STARR POWER” of previous members of the band. He often started singing a song and handed the higher parts to Paige or Mark Rivera to handle. Lukather did channel his best Santana solos during “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman.” His contributions to the night, “Rosanna” and “Africa,” seemed to drag on longer than needed, though “Hold The Line” held its own. I think of Richard Paige and Mr. Mister as more one-hit-wonders than legendary. OK, MAYBE they had a hit and a half. It was back in the hey-day of MTV. “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie” seemed very dated in sound compared to the rest of the night’s numbers. I do think one of his song choices of the evening, “You Are Mine,” a new song he was debuting, was out of place in the show. While the piece was enjoyable, it didn’t seem a proper fit for anyone but Ringo to play new material. As band members, Paige and Lukather are both solid players, but just seemed out of their league.

If you ask most people who their favorite Beatle was, most would reply Paul or John. Ringo would usually hold up the bottom of that list. Not mine. Ringo hovers around third/maybe second. I am scorned when I say that my ranking is George, Ringo/Paul then John. I vacillate on Paul because I liked Wings. Ringo may not be the best musician or the most popular Beatle, but he is truly a great entertainer. At 74 years old he can play a two-hour show and he still has the energy to literally do jumping jacks during the last song. It is obvious from his presence on stage that he sincerely loves what he does. He is even comfortable messing up a song — which he did! He started playing “Don’t Pass Me By” on piano and botched it a bit and then went on to just singing it. Planned or not, he showed that a Beatle is human. He seems to have his hands fixed in a permanent peace sign when they are not otherwise occupied. He is a purveyor of peace and love. One of the newer songs he performed, “Anthem,” delivered that message. He wrapped up the evening singing a portion of John Lennon’s (Plastic Ono Band) “Give Peace A Chance.” He ran offstage as the band played on and then took their bows without Ringo. Surely he was already on his way to the hotel.

While McCartney may sell out stadiums, I would rather see Ringo in a venue such as PPAC. The sound was not too loud and relatively clear, though at times the vocals did seem a bit buried behind the music. But that may just be me; I am super picky about that. Just about every seat at PPAC has a good view of the stage. You don’t have to watch or are distracted by a Jumbotron. Having those at stadium shows is great, but you can always stay home and watch TV. I don’t think attending a show at a stadium or arena can even compare to a show in a more intimate and comfortable setting such as PPAC. For me, Ringo is the obvious choice to see when it comes to a Beatle. I think that having the opportunity to see any Beatle live is something that is hard to pass up. Every real music fan should see one. There are only two left and they are getting old, so hurry. If you weren’t at PPAC for this show you missed out on a great one! The standing ovation from the audience will attest to that. Ringo certainly does get by with a little help from his friends … his famous and talented friends!

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

John Fuzek, johnfuzek.com

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