The closest you can get to “seeing The Beatles” these days is by going to see the last two standing members during their solo shows. This year was truly the Year Of The Beatles for me – – I saw Paul McCartney at Amalie in July, and I actually traveled out of state to see the other living Beatle.
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band stopped in Florida this time around, but Fort Lauderdale in the middle of the week was not gonna happen, and his private, invitation only Clearwater show at Ruth Eckerd was also not gonna happen. So, I decided that just in case he (God forbid) retires to the ole’ octopus’ garden in the shade before he can come back, I would travel to Atlanta to see them at the Fox Theatre.
Around 8:10, the twelfth, and longest running, All-Starr Band (featuring prog legend Todd Rundgren, Mr. Mister’s Richard Page, Toto’s Steve Lukather, and Santana’s Gregg Rolie, just to name a few) got set up in front of the nearly sold out Atlanta crowd, without the boss present.
“Ladies and gentlemen…” one member began. “would you please welcome RINGO STARR AND HIS ALL-STARR BAND?!” Oh man, did they get welcomed.
As the the lights went up and the All-Starr Band, going on five years, ripped into the Carl Perkins penned Matchbox, which The Beatles gave their take on in 1964, the luckiest drummer in the world came jogging out to the roar of Atlanta. With his cherry red blazer on, Ringo spread “peace and love” across the theater with his trademark peace hand gestures.
“Yes, I know my name… there’s a girl waving” Ringo remarked two songs in. While trying to “tell a little story,” he kept on being interrupted for a solid minute by the audience. “Half my act is talking to the audience, that’s why I forget what I’m doing.” Finally, Ringo introduced “the only song we’ve ever written by Lennon, McCartney, and Starkey,” What Goes On, off of The Beatles’ 1965 landmark Rubber Soul album, and that got the audience on their feet.
The four key members of the All-Starr Band were then introduced through their music. Rundgren’s first number of the night was his 1972 hit I Saw The Light, followed later on by Bang The Drum All Day (of which he actually banged on a little drum), and closer to the end, his band Utopia’s Love Is The Answer. Before his second was performed, the All-Starrs helped him jokingly effortlessly perform “a brand new song” that they “worked all afternoon on,” which was a ten second lick of his other solo hit, Hello It’s Me. “I swear, it sounded so much better in rehearsal.” Rundgren joked.
Next up was Gregg Rolie, who also got three songs, all by Santana. First up was Evil Ways originally written by Willie Bobo. Following later on throughout was an odyssey through Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, and Tito Puente’s Oye como va, which was also a Santana cover. Rolie also played in Journey for a period in time, but no signs of them whatsoever were displayed.
Of course, you gotta have some mainstream in an All Starr Band show. Steve Lukather was there representing Toto with his touring saxophonist and backing vocalist Warren Ham. “This is a beautiful theater, it’s a beautiful place. Sold out? Alright!” Of course, Toto really had three hits that are easily recognizable, all of which were performed separately: The earworm Rosanna, the synthed-up Africa, and their 1978 debut single Hold The Line, all of which included three to four minute sax solos from Ham. “Alright, stand up. Here’s another one for you, everybody get on up!” Lukather ordered. And stand up we did, and danced, we did.
Next in line was the lead singer for Mr. Mister, the one and only Richard Page. Many people may not know him or his band by name, but I’m sure everyone has heard at least one of his three songs. Two of them – Kyrie and Broken Wings – were hits from his band that gave the show such an energetic vibe, there was no need for the audience to bolt the words out to him. There was also a slow dance Page song played, You Are Mine, described as “a song you may not know.” “These iconic musicians, amazing hit songs, something for everybody. I gotta say most importantly, it’s being onstage with…the legendary.”
Who was he pointing to? Touring drummer Gregg Bissonette? (man, Ringo must really like Greggs.) With all due respect to him, no. Of course, you can’t have a Ringo show without Ringo songs, both with The Beatles, and on his own.
Ten songs in, the drummer jogged over from the drums to a keyboard (Yes, a keyboard.) to rip into Don’t Pass Me By, off of The Beatles’ legendary White Album. “I’ve written lots of songs, but this is the first one.” he claimed. More Beatle hits kept on coming, including Yellow Submarine (“I don’t think I have to tell them about this song. Ya know, if they don’t know this song, they’re in the wrong venue.”), and the first Ringo voiced tune, Boys. He then began blending his songs in with the All-Starrs’, playing three of his most famous solo songs. First came You’re Sixteen, then Back Off Boogaloo, and of course, Photograph.
The night concluded with his other two voiced Beatle songs – 1965’s Act Naturally, and off of Sgt. Pepper, With A Little Help From My Friends, with a surprise guest on Ringo’s drums, Chris Fryar of The Zac Brown Band. “Zac! You made it!” Ringo pointed out towards the audience. “You gonna shave your beard? Ha ha ha, he’s not really there.”
After the legend ran offstage for a minute or two, the All-Starrs began playing the chorus part to Ringo’s fallen bandmate’s Give Peace A Chance, a fitting end to a Ringo show. As it played, he came jogging back out without a jacket of any kind, and just his sparkly black peace sign shirt to make more of his hand gestures. “Remember, peace and love, peace and love is the only way.” he reminded us on his way out.
Though he’s right either way, we could always use more in this world.