49 years ago Ringo Starr was busy changing musical history as he and the other three Beatles performed for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show, causing girls to scream, boys to grow their hair and join bands and kicking off The British Invasion in America. Here in Auckland, Ringo was surrounded by a slightly less talented group of musicians and the adoration was a bit more subdued. Nevertheless, the hits came fast as furious for two hours. Exactly two hours.
By now Ringo’s All Starr tour is a well-oiled machine. He’s been doing it since 1989…I saw the first tour which featured Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, Dr John, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Levon Helm and Rick Danko.
This time around, Ringo is accompanied by Todd Rundgren, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey, Richard Page of Mr Mister and multi-instrumentalist Mark Rivera along with drummer Gregg Bissonette. Of course Ringo manned the drum kit as well, when he wasn’t taking center stage. Along with Ringo, I was most interested in seeing what Todd Rundgren would contribute.
A precisely 8pm the show started with Ringo leading the group through Carl Perkin’s Matchbox, a tune he recorded with The Beatles. Ringo was looking good…trim and fit and sounding good as well as he flashed the peace sign incessantly to the crowd. The band looked like they were having fun as well, particularly Rundgren who, playing guitar and singing backing vocals, threw in the occasional leg kick just to keep things interesting.
Following It Don’t Come Easy, Ringo performed, almost apologetically, a song called Wings, from his most recent album. It went down OK, but the fans were there to hear hits, so Ringo climbed up on his drum stool and let the others have their time in the spotlight.
First up was Rundgren who sang I Saw The Light. Over the course of the evening each of the four other “All-Starrs” would perform three songs. Sadly Todd’s were the most disappointing. His singing was weak and his version of Love Is The Answer was downright embarrassing. Todd Rundgren has made some of the best records of the 1970s, but you’d never know it from what was heard tonight.
As much as Todd was a disappointment, Gregg Rolie was a pleasant surprise. Fortunately he focused on his days with Santana rather than Journey and his versions of Evil Ways and Black Magic Woman were superb. The entire band locked in with him and they had a good old jam, with Rolie leading from behind his Hammond B-3 organ. Lukather took his best solos of the night during Rolie’s tunes and the crowd responded accordingly.
Lukather himself fronted three Toto tunes. There were plenty of Toto fans in attendance who wanted to hear Rosanna and Africa, but I wasn’t one of them. I admit to playing a bit of air guitar along with Hold The Line however.
Richard Page’s contributions were the two Mr Mister hits, Kyrie and Broken Wings and a new song called You Are Mine. No doubt, Page possessed the best singing voice of the bunch…he even helped with the high notes on the Toto numbers…and so he sounded excellent, although, again, I’m no fan of his Mr Mister material.
Which leaves Mr Starr himself. Ringo was in fine form, joking with the crowd, getting them revved up and generally basking in their applause. While the two new songs just kind of lay there…naming a song Anthem doesn’t make it so…the old hits sounded great.
Among the Beatles songs, the biggest surprise was Don’t Pass Me By, the wonky-sounding tune from the White Album and the first the Ringo had written himself. Yellow Submarine had everyone singing along and I Wanna Be Your Man was good fun.
The highlight of Ringo’s solo tune was definitely Photograph, the song he wrote with George Harrison for his 1973 Ringo album. It was the best of the 24 songs performed during the show.
Yes, there were highs and lows as the evening progressed and there were times when it felt like they were rushing to get to the end…”moving right along”….but the overall vibe was warm and friendly with both band and audience having a good time.
The evening closed with the obligatory With A Little Help From My Friends along with a coda of Give Peace A Chance. Then Todd led the band through a brief Haka and they were gone…at 10 o’clock on the dot.
49 years later Ringo Starr wasn’t making history, but he did make an arena full of fans very happy.
Click on any of the photos to watch a gallery of concert shots taken by the mighty Michael Flynn for The 13th Floor:
Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band set list:
- It Don’t Come Easy
- I Saw The Light
- Evil Ways
- Don’t Pass Me By
- Bang On The Drum
- Yellow Submarine
- Black Magic Woman
- Honey Don’t
- You Are Mine
- Everybody’s Everything
- I Wanna Be Your Man
- Love Is The Answer
- Broken Wings
- Hold The Line
- Act Naturally
- With A Little Help From My Friends