This Las Vegas Planet Hollywood gig was a gig of epic proportions, It was the first of eight straight shows at the same venue in Sin City by Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. For half a decade as it was this night, The All Starrs consisted of the same group. Steve Lukather (Toto g,v), Greg Rolie (Santana, Journey k,v), Richard Page (Mr. Mister b,v), Todd Rundgren (Nazz, Utopia, The New Cars g,v,d, percussion), Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Toto d) and "newcomer" Warren Ham (Kansas, Bloodrock v, sax, harmonica, clarinet, percussion and keyboards). Ham, Luke's Toto touring band mate of recent time actually has been the only change, replacing Mark Rivera in 2014. Page was with the previous Ringo ensemble in 2010/11, Rundgren was with Ringo in 1992/99 and Bissonette has been with Ringo the longest consecutively since 2008. This band continues to extend its record by far as the longest-tenured All Starr Band.
This show was themed around homecoming and healing. Steve Lukather has a ton of family in the area. The healing for the recent senseless killings of 58 innocent concert goers here in Las Vegas. Driving into Vegas from the airport you couldn't help but to feel the eeriness and pain that still lingers in the air. There is a memorial as you enter town in remembrance of the victims. It's within earshot of the site and still standing stage/crime scene. Right off the bat Ringo alluded to that pain as he greeted the crowd with "we're here to lift up the spirits". Lift they did right out of the box with "Matchbox". Luke and Toto pal Ham were off to a fast start with Luke's guitar and Ham's saxophone. The crowd welcomed the All Starrs warmly and the healing began. Ringo told the crowd "we haven't played together for almost a year'. That was almost forgotten as these musos grooved from the start. Ham and Rolie held down stage right with their musical expertise.
Rundgren next enlightened the crowd on what you have to have on your resume to be in the All Starr band. Todd said "you have to have at LEAST three hits. You can be down and out, but if you have three hits then you can be an All Starr." One of Todd's songs that qualified was "I Saw the Light" which was from his 45 year old solo release (Something/Anything) in which the multi artist played all the instruments on this hit. Todd told the crowd happily "we're on the road again!" refering to the length of
time this All Starr group has been together. He said "you're a part of history."
Next up it was Rolie's turn in the spotlight. "Evil Ways" is a five decade old song written by Sonny Henry, made famous by Santana in 1969. This number got the band and crowds blood flowing even stronger. Most of these songs are all four or five decades old but are all in heavy radio rotation and will not be forgotten anytime soon. Ringo assisted Bissonette with the Latin rhythm grooves and added Ham more percussion parts.
Todd and Luke darted to the front of the stage which got the crowd going even stronger. Then Luke turned it up a notch even further as is the case with all the Santana numbers especially.
Luke told the crowd referring to Ringo "it's great to be back playing with the greatest!" He then encouraged the crowd with "stand up and help me sing" for the Toto smash "Rosanna". Ringo remained on the drums on his riser next to Bissonette. Ham started on his riser playing sax but then worked his way up front as he did with Toto earlier in the year across the World. Ham's vocals are the secret weapon on this gig. He shined extra special on the Luke/Toto numbers. Ringo and Bis' sometimes looked like they were playing in front of a mirror as they were synchronized to perfection. Sometimes you forget that there is a Beatle up there as Ringo just plays along as he is "one of the guys".
Richard Page dedicated "Kyrie" to "the nearly 60 souls who can't enjoy this like us". As the show rolled on it was almost forgotten that these guys had not played in almost a year live. Ringo and Bis' were together again as Ringo bounced back and forth between drum riser up top and center stage. This vocal cavalcade included everyone without a drum kit in front of them. The vocals soared high on stage from left to right. As soon as the extra drums are brought out front you know it's time for "Bang the Drum All Day". This song not only lives on Classic Rock radio, it's an anthem for numerous sports teams and radio personalities. Ham added his percussion skills to this number making it a four horse race in the skins department. Bis' added his singing skills to this number and Luke chipped in a few dance moves grooving over to Todd with six string in hand.
"Boys" a Luther Dixon/Wes Farrell, Shirelles number covered by the Beatles over 50 years ago was up next. This highly energetic number still had Ringo and Bis' grooving side by side. Luke jammed with Page. Ham added yet another instrument with the tambourine. Smiles were abundant from the stage to the crowd as this was the true definition of a fun yet healing show. It was great to see so many locals out for this show proving Vegas strong with the healing process in full swing. The Ringo penned Beatles song "Don't Pass Me By" got Ringo out from behind his kit and up front again. Our host started out on keyboards and then came back out to center stage for the rest of the number. The svelte, spry 77 year old host never reminded anyone how old he was. "Yellow Submarine" the mellow Beatles sing a long song had EVERYONE doing just that.
Ringo alluded to the Las Vegas tragedy by dedicating the title track of his recent release "Give More Love" to "Vegas Strong". This release solidifies especially Luke and the rest of the All Starrs as they all played on his last release and some of them played on this one too. Luke co-wrote two songs with Ringo and Paul McCartney played on both cuts.
This nights crowd was more than lucky as they became the first people in the World to hear this song played live. Luke added some delicate electric guitar work having bounced back and forth with his acoustic too, from song to song. He was the lone guitarist on several numbers as Rundgren was only lead singer/keys on one song and shaker on another.
"Back Off Boogaloo" still had Ringo out front at the beginning of this thunderous number. He then jumped back mid-song to his kit. This was the perfect two drummer song. Add Ham to the mix with his percussion skills and the first thing that came to mind was the musical magic that Ringo had alluded to earlier. The decibel level was at its peak for the night and wouldn't be surpassed at any time . When this number debuted in '72 Ringo was at his solo musical peak. Luke added to the epic sound levels with thunderous guitar of his own. Ringo was back in place for another Greg Rolie/Santana number, "Oye Como Va" from "Abraxis". It was written by Tito Puente 55 years ago. The true musical and personal comaraderie shined even brighter than I've ever seen before. Luke said "it's like going to summer camp".
Luke picked up an acoustic guitar for the Utopia/Rundgren song "Love is the Answer". Rundgren put down his axe for this number stood out front center stage for most of the song. His still great vocal skills at almost 70 showed how not only did you have to have the three hits he mentioned earlier but up against the other All Starrs you still needed to be able to hold your own vocally. This song was actually not a huge hit for Utopia but it was a huge hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley. Ironically the next day to the day was the 40th anniversary of the release of the Utopia song. EVERYONE vocally more than held their own but once again Ham and Page went above and beyond the call of duty. They were neck and neck for vocal MVP's.
Vocal MVP Page was up next with Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings". There was a very warm feeling in the crowd when there was an immediate recognition of the next huge hit. This was another of the songs recognized within the first few notes. With Rundgren on shaker Luke was the lone guitarist on stage. Luke didn't disappoint as he brought the required three huge hits he also brought his amazing guitar playing ability. Ringo was back up with Bissonette on the skins for the tandem. Longtime SoCal friends Page and Luke shined in the spotlight on this number. Luke showed on this one song how with sublte, intricate playing and then ferociously attacking his instrument he covers both ends of the spectrum. Luke locked eye to eye with Bissonette as the onetime Toto bandmates smiled ear to ear. Luke then asked the crowd "is everyone having a good time"?
Hometown and family was up next as Luke dedicated "Hold the Line" to his daughter Tina who came out to the show. Luke said "Vegas is a second home to me". Even though Ringo isn't singing into a michrophone on this Toto song he obviously thoroughly enjoys it as he always sings along. Ham garnered some more MVP votes on this song as it was clearly evident how important he was on the recent lenghthy Toto Tour.
Beatles memories were abundant as up next was the George Harrison/Ringo smash "Photograph". You can add this number to the many that the entire audience sang along to. The Buck Owens written "Act Naturally" was the next easy sing a long number that had the Vegas crowd doing just that. "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "Give Peace a Chance" is always a note that this great show has come to an end. This was a great begininng to an amazing run of shows in Vegas. It was a a bit of healing as the two hours were more about total enjoyment and taking us back in a time machine hearing some of the best music from the last five decades. This night truly was Vegas Strong!