Wanted: Accomplished musician for touring rock band. Minimum 25 years' professional experience. Ideal candidate has at least two Top 40 hits, maximum four from the 1960s or '70s; '80s may be acceptable. Plays one or more instruments -- not drums. Compensation: to be determined. Fringe benefits: playing with a Beatle.
Not that Ringo Starr ever had to place an ad in the Recycler, but that’s the gist of what the ex-Beatle has called for every couple of years when he gets the itch to hit the road with his All-Starr Band, which wrapped up its five-week U.S. tour Saturday at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
This time out, Starr was joined by Todd Rundgren, former Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Santana/Journey keyboardist Gregg Rolie, Mr. Mister singer-songwriter-bassist Richard Page and his rhythm section anchors Gregg Bissonette and saxophonist-percussionist Mark Rivera.
It’s a share-the-wealth idea that gives Starr the opportunity to front a band or get behind his famous Ludwig drum kit when the mood strikes, hop from his contributions to the Fab Four’s canon to his signature numbers from his solo career and in between turn the spotlight over to his guests.
Saturday was a typically feel-good evening with the most famous, and most charming, drummer in rock history in which Starr, having turned 72 on July 7, appeared as energetic and spry as ever.
Without the extensive catalog of his own era-defining music that former bandmate Paul McCartney can draw upon in his concerts these days, Starr has no problem getting by with a little help from his friends, to whom he’s always given as much assistance as he’s drawn from them.
He opened with the Beatles-era “Matchbox,” went straight into his early solo hit “It Don’t Come Easy,” written for him by George Harrison, and then brought things into the present with “Wings” from his latest album, “Ringo 2012.”
The ever-present sense of humor came out when he introduced “Wings,” asking whether anyone in the capacity crowd was aware that he'd put out an album earlier this year, then said, “I’d like to thank the five of you who bought it, the seven of you who downloaded it, and the three of you who bought the vinyl!”
Rundgren, being the second-biggest star on the lineup, also served as the show’s second-in-command stage presence, appearing in a tie-and-tails tux that had either been tie-dyed or run through the laundry with a pair of blue jeans that bled on it. Rundgren offered up his bouncy pop hits “I Saw the Light” and “Bang the Drum,” while Rolie brought a Latin rock accent into the mix from behind his Hammond B3 organ keyboard on Santana’s “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman.”
The latter number allowed the show’s host a quick break -- he headed backstage and left the drumming duties to the ever-smiling Bissonette, who showed his masterful grasp of the syncopated accents and roiling beats integral to Latin rock. Lukather pealed off cascades of notes during his solo, a busier tack than Carlos Santana typically takes, making his contribution more a showcase of rock guitar hero virtuosity than Santana’s excursions into the realm of musical soul.
Page nimbly delivered Mr. Mister’s two biggest hits, “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” and Lukather also took to the microphone for Toto’s “Rosanna” and “Hold the Line,” calling in backup for the highest melodic sections from Page and Rivera.
But the spotlight was never long away from Starr, who acknowledged his awareness of his own limitations at anything other than the drums before stepping up to an electronic keyboard to accompany himself in the opening of “Don’t Pass Me By.” He also took a self-effacing jab at his songwriting as he told the audience: “When I wrote those words -- 'You were in a car crash/And you lost your hair,' I thought, 'Watch out, Lennon and McCartney!' "
Considering that his original All-Starr Band lineup in 1989 was brimming with current or future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members -- including the Band’s Levon Helm and Rick Danko, Dr. John, E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, guitarist Nils Lofgren and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh -- this year’s lineup had considerably less star power going for it. Walsh, now Starr’s brother-in-law after marrying the sister of Ringo’s wife, Barbara Bach, made an unscheduled appearance, trotting out his big pre-Eagles hit “Rocky Mountain Way,” complete with signature talk-box guitar effect.
Starr has long said that he simply loves to play -- and a drummer is at a distinct disadvantage compared to guitarists or keyboardists to do so on his own. There’s obviously no shortage of musicians who are more than delighted to back him on some of the most beloved songs in pop music history: “Yellow Submarine,” “Act Naturally,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” and, of course, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Indeed, for that final number of the two-hour show, even more friends came out for an all-hands-on-deck finish. Starr was flanked by the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, Peter Frampton, Jeff Lynne, Walsh (and his daughter Lucy), Gary Wright, actors Bud Cort and Corey Feldman, drummer Jim Keltner and even former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum.
A splendid time appeared to have been had by all.
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