This is like a paid summer vacation for the guys as this is a job unlike ANY other. Playing with some of the best hangs and musicians in the World, traveling in style and having a Beatle as your boss. Still ever etched in my mind is the utter gleam in Luke's eye at the Grammy museum at the end of 2011 when Luke first knew he was going to be playing with Ringo. That enthusiasm has grown even more as the years have gone by.
The sold out Ringo All Starr Band show crowd at the Denver Paramount Theatre wasn't deterred by the torrential rains and hail that roared down outside. The audience eagerly awaited the show in the comforts of the historic venue built in 1930.
The All Starr's opened with "Matchbox" to the enthusiastic crowd. Next up was the Ringo hit "It Don't Come Easy". What gets lost during the All Starr gigs are the Ringo songs. Followed later in the set were other million selling singles "Photograph" and "You're Sixteen". "Photograph" featured Ham on saxophone and was one of many sing a long songs by the entire crowd. These songs were all smash hits on both sides of the pond and ruled the radio airwaves 40 years ago.
Ringo introduced "What Goes On" as the only Lennon/McCartney/Starkey recorded composition. He then said "I know you're disappointed that the names are in the wrong order!"
With the amazing amount of talent this band has it's enjoyable to see each individual member shine on his own. Todd was first up with "Saw the Light". It was never more evident that these guys truly are a band and Todd's number helped prove this point. Originally Rundgren played all instruments on the original recording. This time he had his band mates of five years backing him up. It now reminded me of an All Star sports team . You have five top notch athletes playing one game together and they play pretty well. You have those same five guys play together for five years and then some magic happens as they continue to gel. They know what their band mates/ team mates are going to do before they do it. The combination of the five or six voices together is unsurpassed.
Every song sounded better than the last time I heard it. Ringo echoed those sentiments after the Luke led Toto number "Hold the Line". Ringo said. "That's the BEST we've EVER played that!" Luke coined Page as his "ace in the hole" on the Toto songs "Rosanna" and "Africa". Ham also assisted Luke on these hits Luke brought to the table. The highlight on "Rosanna" was the dynamic duo of Bissonette and the head of the show, Ringo. They have been playing together far longer than the All other Starrs and it's almost like you are looking at a mirror more often than not as they played together side by side. Not to be lost were the vocals by Page/Ham/Lukather in unison and the group as a whole. In a regular sporting event you focus on THEE superstar.
In an All Star game you sometimes don't know where to look because EVERYONE is a star. It's the same thing here as when you focus on Ringo you may miss something Luke or Rolie is doing. It's a nice problem to have as your eyes bounce all over the stage and you feel like there are five bands on the bill.
Page, as he introduced his Mr. Mister song "Kyrie" told the crowd that they enjoyed their day off in town yesterday. He added "I've never had a bad day in Colorado" as the crowd roared in appreciation. Page then said "I really appreciate my band mates, especially the legendary one behind me" (as he pointed to Ringo). Luke slid left and right like he was on skates next to Rundgren, Page and Rolie to work his six string magic. Luke sizzled when he needed to sizzle and fit in when he needed to fit in. Everyone was getting their chance to shine and shine they did.
The upbeat "Bang the Drum" featured Todd out front 'banging the drum' with Bissonette/Ringo in addition to Ham banging away on the skins. It was a 'percussion party' on this number. This was the most frantic number for the concert goer with six vocalists and four percussionists.
With Rolie's turn came the Santana numbers. I almost had the feeling that it was SANTANA I was hearing. "Black Magic Woman/ Gypsy Queen" , "Evil Ways" and "Oye Como Va" had Bissonette and Ringo in sync on the drums from the first beat until the last. Ham had the whole crowd thinking it WAS Santana by adding his Santanesque percussion touch. Ringo called Rolie the "find of the Century".
A heartfelt Ringo told his fans how much he loved the song "Love is the Answer" the Utopia hit featuring Rundgren again. Todd was front and center this time on keyboards and vocals. Not a single All Starr is a one trick pony. In another sports analogy there are no he can only shoot or he is just a great defensive player. It's guitar and vocals, keyboards, guitar and vocals sax, keys and vocals etc. The True definition of an All Starr. This All Starr group is of the "we mentality" instead of the "me mentality". Todd told me three years ago how the last Ringo show at the Greek was bittersweet because they all wanted to keep playing. Here we are three years later and they are STILL playing together! Ringo said during the show "Todd has been with me four times". Todd has played with Ringo as far back as 1992.
Ringo introduced "Act Naturally" as a "Country number". The interplay between Rolie and Rundgren highlight this tune. "Boys" featured Luke, Rolie and Rundgren on the same vocal microphone.
Bissonette once again is the glue to this band. A member of the All Starr's since 2003 Gregg is the veteran of this group. I did get a chance to say hello to the ever amiable drummer from my Southern California neighborhood. Ham's versatility is his strength as he excelled at every instrument he touched.
Ringo's mantra is if you want to be an All Starr you have to have the hit songs. Richard Page brought thee songs alright. "Broken Wings" immediately brought the energy and recognition level way up. This hair raising number seemed to touch every member of the crowd. Page NEVER ceases to amaze me vocally. Add Luke's haunting, mesmerizing guitar to Page's epic vocals and the crowed was WOWED! The two longtime friends' musical talents were appreciated by the crowd witnessing their ever growing smiles and cheers. We Angelenos are probably a bit jaded so it takes a little more to get us going but the Denver reaction was spot on. For a moment I could picture Luke with the same effort and energy at the Baked Potato in L.A. from a few feet away up close and personal. Being n Angelino I quickly realized how lucky I am and not to take those moments for granted.
I had a chance to meet with Luke right before the show along with guitarist/vocalist of YouTube "Africa" sensation Mike Masse. We recollected a bit of Luke musical history regarding his work with Michael Jackson. Luke serenaded us with some MJ from "Thriller" on his acoustic guitar. I told Luke that little interlude was worth the trip. After the show Luke told me "I LOVE playing in the band and it looks like we will be doing more. October-November are booked. Hoping some summer shows next year too... in between Toto. Ringo and I have also written and recorded 2 new songs together that need lyrics. 2017-2020 are gonna be REALLY busy with all I have going on. Life is good and I am the luckiest man in show biz doing what I love to do in these insane times! Don't think I take that lightly nor do I take it for granted."
This end to the Ringo All Starr run wasn't as bittersweet as the past ones. Again ending at the historic Greek Theater in the scenic hills of Los Angeles, Ca. This time we knew there are more shows to come in October and November. There wasn't a bit of sadness conveyed as the All Starrs all knew there was more fun to be had down the road. I recently reviewed this show in Denver so I will just touch on a few things regarding this gig.
There were plenty of thanks from the All Starrs to their boss Ringo, Everyone was obviously happy and thankful to having a former Beatle as their boss. Steve Lukather even went as far as joking that this band outlast the length of the Beatles! Todd Rundgren referred to Ringo as "Hometown Boy" sarcastically adding "SOME of us don't live here!" I then realized it was also a homecoming show as over half the band calls the Los Angeles area home. Todd also reminisced about playing at the Greek four years ago and how the band was still together. The Toto songs performed by the band "Hold the Line", "Africa" and "Rosanna" now had an even more special feeling. They were being played to a sold out Greek Theater crowd where Toto has played these same songs, led by Luke, in LA, by an "LA band" with EVERY word sung by the crowd.
On the Rundgren fronted "Bang on The Drum" Ringo reminded the crowd "that's what I do!". On this number it was like you were watching a tennis match as your eyes bounced back and forth across the stage. Six singers and four percussionists made your head spin! The fearless leader Ringo was part singer, host, drummer and comedian. He didn't hesitate to zap a patron for committing a "fan foul" but he quickly hit that same patron with his patented "Peace and Love".
As is the case with some of the Ringo shows but ALWAYS in LA the band is joined for the last songs by special guests. This time on "With a Little Help From My Friends/ Give Peace a Chance" they were helped out by Bill Mumy (actor "Lost in Space"/musician), Glen Ballard (producer/Ringo collaborator) and Keith Allison (Paul Revere and the Raiders/actor).
It was another I'm lucky to be here gig as there wasn't an empty seat until the last note was played. Several times I turned around with my back to the stage to soak in the vibe of the crowd. The smiles, shouts of joy and sing a longs were abundant.
I did have the chance to share a few words with Luke after the show. I told him how I sat two rows behind his son Trevor and how he cheered all night long from first song until the last. It was very cool to see a proud son enjoying himself. Luke told me "Ah man!... It was a great way to end the Tour in LA... packed house, family and friends. It is always hard to end a Ringo Tour because we have so much FUN doing them. The good news is, there ARE more Ringo Shows to come and I also have 2 new songs that Ringo and I wrote and recorded to finish, plus the Fall Tour in Oct, with USA and Japan dates. The band is tight and going into year 5 now... it has a sound. The band is a band. Sure we do each others hits and all but we do them different than say I would with Toto, which keeps it fresh for me. The band puts its own spin on everyone's old songs updating with this unique group sound to them. I have Toto in August-September, so my year is very busy, but that's how I like it. For now it's happy 4th with the kids and relaxing. Hope I see you soon Reg' and thanks for coming out."