Peace and love. Peace and love.
If we each had a nickel for every time Ringo Starr extolled the virtues of each during Tuesday’s rain-soaked, sold-out show at Artpark, we’d probably be able to afford buying them and installing them in the hearts and minds of every human on the planet.
Starr never offered any concrete plan for the attainment of either ephemeral element Tuesday. But then, we didn’t expect him to. We just wanted some face time with a Beatle.
One of the benefits of being Ringo Starr – of which there are surely more than might reasonably be listed here – is the fact that, no matter which musician you call, the odds of them returning that call are incredibly high. Hence, the existence of the All-Starr Band, a rotating cast of incredibly talented rock musicians who answer Ringo’s call, exult in pretending to be Beatles for a little while, and are rewarded with the opportunity to play a few songs of their own for a crowd that is in the mood to be generous with the applause.
Tuesday’s show sold out almost immediately upon its on-sale date. And those folks who snapped up the roughly 12,000 tickets on offer had no intention of leaving Artpark without spending some personal time with their man.
The rain was severe, the lightning doing its best to one-up it, and there was no one at Artpark who wasn’t drenched to the bone, save perhaps the band members themselves, who stayed backstage until the worst had passed. And pass it did, leaving a massive crowd of waterlogged rock fans even more eager for a good time than they might have been had the weather cooperated.
Starr strode onto the stage, thanked us for hanging around, said he would’ve played in the rain, but “they wouldn’t let us,” and then launched into one of the giddiest – and at times, incredibly strange – sets of music we’re likely to be gifted with this season.
This version of the All-Starr Band – guitarist/vocalist Todd Rundgren, keyboardist/vocalist Greg Rolie, guitarist/vocalist Steve Lukather, bassist/vocalist Richard Page, drummer Gregg Bisonette, and saxophonist/percussionist/vocalist Warren Ham – is certainly one of the most versatile Starr has assembled since he started doing so in the late ’80s. Simply put, there was not much these guys couldn’t do. And when they all joined together on vocal harmonies, the choir that resulted certainly stretched heavenward.
The ensemble opened with one of several Carl Perkins covers from the early Beatles days, in the form of “matchbox,” and then proceeded directly into the anthemic early-70s Starr solo hit “It Don’t Come Easy.” Immediately, it was clear that, though an easygoing, even slightly goofy air would pervade throughout the night, the music-making was on a high level.
The first of the All-Starr Band spotlights went to Rundgren, who dutifully delivered a rather crushing version of “I Saw the Light,” replete with harmony guitar solo interplay between himself and Lukather. Rundgren then passed the baton to Rolie, who ran with it to Santana’s “Evil Ways.”
Not that everyone else wasn’t bringing their A-game as well. Rundgren gave us the closest thing to a Beatles-level anthem in the form of his transcendent “Love Is the Answer,” which should’ve raised the gooseflesh on anyone in attendance with a heartbeat; Page, of Mr. Mister fame, sang beautifully on the arena-pop hit “Kyrie” and his new “You Are Mine,” which found him being joined by Rundgren in stirring two-part vocal harmony; and Lukather led the band through Toto’s “Rosanna” and “Africa” in what proved to be the most surreal moments of the evening.
Of course, Starr was the star of the show, and he didn’t disappoint, delivering touching versions of Beatles classics like “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Yellow Submarine” and the early, primal rocker “Boys.” He was in good voice, seemed incredibly fit for a 73-year-old, appeared to be having a blast, and when he wasn’t bothering the edge of the stage, joined the consistently outstanding Bisonette on the drum riser at the rear of the stage.
Starr could’ve gotten by merely by playing the nostalgia card. Instead, he assembled a smoking band to give us so much more. Thanks, Ringo.