I will never forget the day I found out Steve Lukather was joining Ringo's band. I was at the Grammy Museum with Luke for a presentation, question and answer, live performance he was doing later that night. You would have thought he was a little kid on Christmas eve. This information wasn't out to the public yet. So no one really knew then why he was so amped up. He was genuinely excited and thrilled that this was going to happen. Luke was going to play with another Beatle! He had already played with George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Ringo's All Starr's once again consist of Ringo, Luke (Toto/g,v), Richard Page (Mr. Mister/b,v), Greg Rolie (Santana/Journey k,v), Todd Rundgren (Utopia g,v) with Warren Ham (sax, v, percussion) and Greg Bissonette (d). This fall 2015 tour was in it's early stages with this Mid State California show in Paso Robles, Ca. (October 2nd 2015) being show number two.
Ringo told the Vina Robles Amphitheater crowd on this beautiful October night "we've been doing this for 25 years". After the opener "Matchbox" he added "we do this number every night and it 'Don't Come Easy'". He then mimicked the crowd pretending to be drinking a glass of wine, staggering with pinky extended by saying "you know you're in wine country when..." With a smile on his face and a wink in his eye he told a fan in front as she interrupted the former Beatle jokingly "shut up! Love and peace, love and peace! I mean that in a loving and peaceful way". The crowd erupted with roaring laughter. Love and peace were Ringo's two key words of the night as they are his two keys words in life. I thought next two key words were "band" and "camaraderie". Those are the two main reasons this band has lasted in record-breaking fashion. "Island in the Sun" from Ringo's latest release "Postcards From Paradise" was next up. It was written with the help of EVERY member on stage. A "band tune". It started off as a band jam and made it's way as a group effort song.
From my seat, ten feet from the stage I noticed something I'd never noticed at a Ringo show before. I noticed Ringo cheerfully looking down on the All Starr's as if he were a pound parent. He told the crowd as if it needed an introduction "my name is Ringo and this I the All Starr band!" Ringo then moved throughout the night from out front, behind the drum kit, on top of a cajon and even to behind the keyboards. Each time he playfully told the crowd "I'm over here now!"
Todd Rundgren told the crowd "I love all the guys here with peace and love". He then led the band into his solo hit "I Saw the Light". Something else that became clear was about the songs. When Todd first brought his hit to the All Starrs it was a "Todd Rundgren song". It now belonged to all the members as an All Starr song. It was "their song". Each All Starr gave as much effort and intensity as if it was their song too. Greg Rolie introduced "Evil Ways" the song made famous by Santana. Rolie told the crowd 'we (Santana) didn't want to record this song but Bill Graham did. We were wrong." This was one of the songs where all four core All Starrs sang in unison. Vocal magic happened this way throughout the night. As if it couldn't get any better the combination of Ringo and Bissonette on drums with Warren Ham adding percussion added to Lukather and Rolie holding down stage right.
Luke was featured next as he brought the easy sing a long song "Rosanna" to the party. Luke told the crowd as he pointed to the seats about 20 feet in front of him to the right "I have family and friends out there." He then point to the players on stage and said "and I have family and friends up here." The crowd then stood in unison and sang the words to the Toto hit. Warren Ham added percussion and soprano saxophone. He then showed how versatile he is by adding vocals including some leads. He is just as much of an All Starr as the rest. Luke turned around with his back to the crowd to bask in the glory of seeing Ringo playing drums on a Toto song. As he turned to the crowd the glory permeated to all that could seeing his ever growing smile. Luke then thanked his boss saying "he and his mates changed the World."
Luke then introduced Richard Page to the sold out crowd as a life long friend. Page said "WOW! What great place. Page was just as happy to play his #1 hit with Mr. Mister "Kyrie". Page moved to the absolute edge of the stage to as close to the crowd as possible. Rundgren then brought "Bang the Drum" to the show as the All Starrs did bang the drums with Bissonette, Rundgren, Ringo and Ham. Ringo then jokingly introduced "Boys" as "a song from my former band: Rory Storm and the Hurricanes." Luke, Page and Rundgren all shared the same vocal microphone at one point during the song with the trio blending perfectly. Rundgren and Luke joked to new heights as the All Starrs of four years were all now true friends if not brothers. You would have thought they were teenagers. That's what this show was about. Bringing the fans and even themselves back to an innocent, peaceful, loving time in their lives.
Ringo said "Don't Pass Me By" "was the first song I ever wrote and recorded." He then made it even clearer by saying "It's the first song I ever WROTE and recorded." On this number he started out on keyboards and then darted to the front of the stage as he zigged and zagged to all points during the show. Luke then pulled out an acoustic guitar for what Ringo said "this is a participation song." For "Yellow Submarine" Ringo said "If you don't know this song you are in the wrong venue. You're probably waiting for Led Zeppelin. (The All Starrs immediately broke into some Zeppelin). I just said that to give them a chance to play some Zeppelin!"
It was Greg Rolie's turn again as the Peter Green song made famous by Santana "Black Magic Woman" gave the Rolie/Lukather combo a chance to shine again. I thought those moments with Steve and Greg were probably the most magical of the night. Judging by the looks on their faces and the reaction of the audience I think I answered my own question. The crowd acknowledged the duo as they acknowledged them right back. Bissonette finished up the number with some thunder of his own. I don't know if Ringo is a brilliant prognosticator but the placement of Luke and Rolie next to each other on stage was extremely astute.
The set list was a perfect combination of All Starr's hits, Ringo hits, Beatles hits and now a band/Ringo song. Ringo acknowledged Bissonette for "holding us together". Probably the most unfamiliar song of the set is a Page solo song "You are Mine". It may not be the most familiar song but it is certainly not forgettable. Page and Luke were the stars on this song as Page's vocals soared and Luke's guitar work was something that words are hard to describe. Musical chairs was played on this number as Page switched to acoustic guitar, Rundgren switched to bass, Ringo played the cajon with Luke smoking on his natural electric guitar. Again Ringo looked down on his mates and was grinning ear to ear. I actually saw Ringo giving props to Luke just after Luke worked his six string magic. Luke had his back to the crowd and Ringo was looking directly at him. The Toto #1 hit "Africa" put Luke in the spotlight once again. Without encouragement the crowd got up and sang all the words. Luke brought his signature Sammy Davis Jr. guitar out for this number affectionately referred to as "Sammy". Once again Ham augmented the song with sax and vocals. Smiles and laughs bounced back and forth across the stage as that joy permeated to the crowd. The Tito Puente number made famous once again by Santana "Oye Como Va" was another number having the four All Starrs singing together. We were revisiting the Starr/Bissonette side by side drumming in unison with Ham adding his percussion touch.
"Broken Wings kept the #1 hits rolling in led by Page. It was Page's turn to soak in the fact that Ringo was now playing drums on one of his songs. Hearing each member singing individually in such top form like Page proved why those voices combined makes this band sound so great. Luke introduced Toto's "Hold the Line" as a "party song from 1978". It was three for three as the crowd rose again for another Toto classic singing along to this one too. The words band and camaraderie were prevalent again as all of the All Starr's performed at maximum level as if they were in Toto. Ringo's #1 from 1973 "Photograph" followed as this proved to be an easy sing along number. I could have never imagined growing up as a kid listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem counting down to "Photograph" that 42 years later I would see Ringo from 10 feet away singing that same song. Ringo then told the crowd regarding the next song "it's something I try to do more every day, "Act Naturally." Ringo then told Luke to "kick it in" as he did on "With a Little Help From My Friends." Luke ended the night by doing a spot on imitation of the colorful bundle of energy Todd Rundgren running manically across the stage. The last number per usual was the all time sing a long classic "Give Peace a Chance."
One of the many reasons this show is so entertaining from beginning to end is all the hits. Ringo's mantra is you have to have the hits to be a member of his band. Hits there is as the set included 8 Top Tens, multiple # 1's and a couple more Top Twenty thrown in for good measure. All by the original artist. Only a couple of the songs didn't hit the charts. I have seen the Ringo All Starrs over the years starting in the early 90's and have seen this version multiple times at various locations across the Country. This one is firing on all cylinders from start to finish. If you haven't seen Ringo or the All Starr's this is a can't miss show.
I did get a chance to talk to Luke after the show about Ringo and many other subjects. Here's my chat with Luke. "It is always a joy to get to go back and play with Ringo and the boys. The band is re-energized and adding 3 new/old songs to refresh the set list is a nice energy boost.
I really have the best time with with the All Starrs as I get to just be the guitar player and Ringo treats us like kings and we laugh a ton and have become a little family so I have two musical homes at this point.
I love the fact a song written by all of us "Island in the Sun" is in the set and we are just getting started and already having a blast."
"I believe the tour is sold out or damn near close and will be... so that's all great and my mornings are filled with working on pre production for the Toto 2016 tours of Europe and Japan and also working on Aug-Sept USA with the Toto's as well. I am very involved in all the business end of the band at this point as we are self managed and never it's never been better!"
"It's going be a busy and joyful year as this one has been amazing. Toto did 100 shows all over the world this year and 3 more to go in Switzerland and then Cancun, Mexico, which is a vacation gig... and we are very strong and motivated!"
"It was sad to see Dave Hungate go but we knew going in he was only gonna stay as long as he wanted to and we were lucky to have had him for 2 years. He was only supposed to do ONE leg of a tour with and we had so much fun we talked him into staying for as long as he wanted to." "I think he saw the upcoming schedule coming and said 'I think thats enough for me'. Hahaha. There is nothing but LOVE and respect so please... I know people love to make up gossip bullshit but there is nothing but love and respect for David Hungate and the door is always open for him to play with us again and needless to say awe are all still very close friends."
"Having said all that ... we are thrilled that Leland Sklar is coming back. As a lifelong friend and genius musician we have seen each other a lot since he played with us last time in 2007 and we always said we wanted to play with him again in Toto. He worked on the new record and has always been a part of our family so we welcome him back and he will bring his best. He always does."
"The Ringo tour is gonna be a blast and the Toto tour is looking amazing and ticket sales out of the box (just on sale this week) are incredible and we are all looking forward to a great 2016! Me... I am happy, healthy, I have a new girlfriend I met in Italy and life is good... blessed to have all this in front of me and me and the Toto guys are pumped up for what's coming. In the meantime it is off to jump back on the Yellow Submarine with Ringo and the guys."