It's always something special when a Beatle comes to town! Ringo Starr drummed and danced his way through Durham's Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his renowned All-Starr Band. A tidal wave of applause and good cheer washed over the theater as Ringo took the stage flashing his trademark peace sign and a giant grin. The seven-piece masterclass tore through over two hours of massive hits from their own catalogs, Ringo's '70s smashes, and of course plenty of Liverpudlian delights.
They launched right into Carl Perkins' playful rockabilly standard "Matchbox", which was a Beatles live staple even before Mr. Starkey was recruited away from Rory Storm & the Hurricanes to join the Fab Four. Next up was the catchy refrain of his first solo hit, 1970's "It Don't Come Easy," followed by "What Goes On" from the eternally beloved Rubber Soul album, the only song ever credited to the writing team of Lennon/McCartney/Starkey ("although I think they got the order wrong" he quipped).
The All-Starr Band always dives deep into the songbooks of everyone involved, and next they ran through the cast with a dizzying array of huge hits. Gregg Rolie co-founded the original Santana band, and his vocals and keyboard skills brought the percussive pulse of "Evil Ways" straight from the classic rock airwaves bursting into real life. "Rosanna" highlighted amazing axeman Steve Lukather, the legendary co-founder of Toto who has added his signature sound to over 1,500 albums.
A thick extended jam on the Average White Band's "Pick Up the Pieces" came next, led by original bassist Hamish Stuart, and it was truly thrilling to see Ringo drumming along on this enduring and indestructible funky groove. The tour through the top of the Billboard charts continued with Colin Hay singing "Down Under", the #1 hit that put Men at Work on the map all over the world. The current incarnation of this ever-changing supergroup also included Warren Ham on saxophone who toured with Toto and Kansas, and Gregg Bissonette from David Lee Roth's band on a second set of drums, allowing the ringed one to sing and saunter across the stage as he saw fit.
The Shirelles' "Boys" brought back the bounce of the early Beatles before the White Album's "Don't Pass Me By" and the ever-enchanting "Yellow Submarine" splashed over the room and started a spirited singalong. Stuart took the lead again for the Average White Band's delicious "Cut the Cake" and Rolie then electrified the scene with Santana's epic "Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen." Ringo returned to lead two more of his solo endeavors, his #1 cover of Johnny Burnette's "You're Sixteen" and his own "Anthem," before his crisp and capable comrades brought another slew of hits to the crowd. This incredible run through the radio dial featured Men at Work's "Overkill," Toto's "Africa," the Average White Band's version of the Isley Brothers' "Work to Do," and the endless rhythmic bliss of Santana's take on Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va."
"I'd like to do something now in a Liverpool accent," said Ringo with a laugh as he lit into a song unique in the annals of rock and roll history. "I Wanna Be Your Man" was penned by Lennon & McCartney for the Rolling Stones, who released it as their second single in 1963, just a few weeks before the Beatles put out their own version on With the Beatles. Two more radio rampages from the All-Starrs then appeared in Men at Work's "Who Can it Be Now?" and Toto's "Hold the Line."
Ringo brought it all back home with his #1 smash "Photograph," co-written in 1973 with none other than George Harrison, and Buck Owens' peppy country lament "Act Naturally" from the Beatles' Help! album. The lovable mop-top's final hurrah was a song covered by many and adored by all, "With a Little Help From My Friends," the perfect tune to cap off an evening of joyous celebration, fond memories and fiery musicianship. "Peace and love!" said Ringo. "It's the only way to go!"
- Paul Kerr
- Photos by Todd E. Gaul, www.photophile.com