The newest members of the All Starrs are Graham Gouldman, the bass player and singer from 10cc and All Starr veteran Colin Hay, guitarist, vocalist and the brains behind Australian band Men at Work. Not only do Gouldman and Hay bring new blood to the All Starr band, but they also bring new songs to the set list. The fans were going to be in for a great night in Los Angeles, at the Greek Theater on a North American Tour ending show (September 29th).
This show had a magical vibe from the start. Ringo immediately acknowledged the venue itself saying "I love the Greek, especially in the Fall". As usual, Ringo was front and center for the kickoff number "Matchbox". Luke was dressed for the occasion in a slick black dress jacket, a 'Pulp Fiction' T-shirt with silver chains dangling from his neck, black pants and blue boots. He was nestled in his usual spot next to Gregg Rolie and his Hammond B3. Luke's boss was to his left, center stage.
'It Don't Come Easy' kicked up the energy level that was already on high. 'What Goes On' had Ringo telling the crowd "dancing IS allowed". He also told them about this number "it's a Lennon/McCartney/Starkey number, I know it's in the wrong order, but what are you going to do?" Colin Hay and Graham Gouldman flanked Ringo on his left. They immediately stood out as being vocally in sync and a big part of this new wall of vocals. Luke chimed in with some twang on his guitar. Ham was perched up high on vocals and tambourine.
As if no one knew who he was, Ringo told the all standing crowd of 6,000 "my name is Ringo and this is the All Starr Band. Everyone is a star in their own right". Ringo jaunted up to his drum kit right next to Gregg Bissonette. It was newcomer Gouldman's chance to showcase his skills. He told the L.A. crowd that "10cc's 'Dreadlock Holiday' was a massive hit all over the World, BUT America". The dual drums of Ringo and Bisonette proved to be a cool, rarely seen nowadays treat. It provided a thunderous anchor to this true all-star ensemble. Ham was already bouncing back and forth as he would continue to do all night as he provided keys and tambourine on this number.
Next, it was Gregg Rolie's turn as he was warmly introduced by Gouldman. About Rolie Graham said "inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame TWICE. With both Journey and Santana. We call him Duke because he is the John Wayne of Rock 'n' Roll". It was now time for the Luke and Duke show as these Santana numbers were perfect to show their prowess at their instruments. 6 years together for the pair was obvious as you would think this song was written for them. It was a flawless rendition of 'Evil Ways'. Luke darted across the stage left and right to jam with both Gouldman and Rolie. Once again the energy level kicked up thanks in most part to Luke. Rolie acknowledged Luke dazzling skills by pointing directly at him at songs end.
Gregg Rolie next introduced Luke "you ALL know him here"! Luke shouted out "HELLO Los Angeles! This is such a great honor." With a touch of sadness, Luke said "this is Graham's last show. Give it up for Ringo Starr. I play music because of this man, right here." 'Rosanna' was the first Luke showcase number. Luke, Ham, and Gouldman showcased their vocals on the Toto smash. Now it was the Toto guys Ham on sax and Luke on guitar out front center stage. There was a truly heartwarming moment in the crowd as I saw Steve Perry the former lead singer of Journey enjoying himself. The former band mate of Rolie in Journey for three albums, Perry was sitting next to Ringo's and Joe Walsh's' wives Barbara and Marjorie Bach. Perry who was out of the music scene and limelight for a while has a new album coming out on Oct. 5th 'Traces'. It's great to see him back and enjoying himself.
Colin Hay joked to the crowd "if you tell someone here in L.A. that you're from somewhere else, they think you moved here last Tuesday! I live in Topanga Canyon. I've lived here for 30 years." He also poked a little bit at Gouldman by saying "Graham had a song that was a hit everywhere but America. I had a song that was a hit everywhere and ESPECIALLY in America!" This is Hay's third run with Ringo having toured in 2003 and 2008. His showcase song 'Down Under' was a Worldwide smash hitting #1 in seven countries including the USA. The hit off of the Men at Work 6,000,000 in the States selling 'Business as Usual' had Hay doing a bit of a samba across the stage. Ringo pointed out to the fans "Colin Hay, an artist, a musician and now DANCER."
The Rory Storm and the Hurricane song 'Boys' had everyone but Bissonette singing away. Rolie's fingers were flying across his B3 fervently. 'Don't Pass Me By' had Ringo starting off on keyboards and then out front and center for the rest of the song. 'Yellow Submarine' had everyone young and old singing along with Luke on acoustic guitar.
Who am I to argue with a Beatle? But, I think I have to. Before Ringo stepped away for a break he introduced the next song as the first of two magical moments tonight. He was right that this was a magical moment but wrong that there would only be two. Graham's 10cc song "I'm Not in Love" was the perfect vehicle for the magical, haunting vocal parade that was about to happen. Gouldman switched from bass to acoustic guitar on this more recognizable American hit. Luke and Hay followed his lead by playing acoustic too. The passion of Luke's vocals on this number was obvious a mere 15 feet away from me.
The Luke and Duke show was up again on 'Black Magic Woman'. Rolie told the Greek patrons how much he loved the Peter Green penned Santana song. Hay and Gouldman soaked in the Luke guitar magic with Rolie following their lead. Rolie has seen this many times before having been planted next to Luke for over half a decade but still seemed mesmerized by Luke. To me, Ringo's number of magical moments had already been passed because every Santana number was magic. Luke gave a fist bump to Rolie at song's end solidifying their musical kinship.
Ringo was back out front for another of his solo chart-topping hits, 'You're Sixteen'. Ham highlighted this number with another one of his patented sax solos. Ringo bounced back up top behind the kit again. For Colin Hay's Men at Work song 'Overkill' Hay, Gouldman and Luke jammed stage right. Hay threw down a tasty guitar interlude on his song. Vocally Hay has not seemed to miss a beat. The talented, underrated guitarist and vocalist ruled the radio and MTV airwaves back in the early 80's just like Toto. At songs end, Luke shouted loudly "COLIN HAY! Come on. What a voice, man!" Newcomers Hay and Gouldman penned all of their new additions to the Ringo set list.
"Africa" now seems to be just as popular now than ever. Back on the charts now by both Weezer and Toto, the 36-year-old song had everyone singing and Steve Perry even smiling bigger than before. Luke told the crowd "Weezer had a #1 song with this"! Toto pals Luke and Ham's vocals soared high with Hay and Rolie adding their talents later on. Ringo and Bissonette were a tandem drum machine on this yet another # 1 hit. Ringo made it clear how important Bissonette was to this band by telling the crowd "Gregg Bissonette is the backbone of this group."
I was wondering even further about Ringo's ability to access magical musical moments as I had already lost count. Another Santana hit, led by Rolie was next 'Oye, Como, Va'. This was another five voice song. Bissonette and Ringo were truly in a groove. For so many years Ringo has been slighted by so-called 'music experts' about his drumming skills. Luke spoke about this in his recently released book 'The Gospel According to Luke'. He referred to them as ignorant critics. About Ringo he said "I will come to blows with anyone who doesn't recognize that he is THE rock drummer great of all time. What Ringo does is 100 percent heart, soul and instinct. Does anything else matter?"
'I Wanna Be Your Man' had Ringo on double duty with drums and vocals. For this Beatles number, Colin was able to showcase some of his guitar skills and stretch out a bit. 10cc's 'The Things We Do For Love' was another showcase song for the outstanding vocals. Luke, once again sauntered over stage left to hang with his L.A. pal Colin. The newfound friends were standing within arm's length of each other and then were joined by Gouldman. The threesome was having a blast spending some quality music time together. Another #1 hit was up next as they kept rolling in. Men at Works 'Who Can it Be Now?' had Ham out front for the unmistakable sax intro and bouncing back up top again. Luke was also a man in motion all night stage left, stage right jamming with his new pals and old pals. It truly amazed me that in such an egocentric business that everyone sang EVERY song like it was their own hit. Luke pointed out that even in such a competitive business that there was room for friendship. This band was the ultimate example with everyone bringing songs that are etched in everyone's memory to the party. It is very ironic that in 1983 Men at Work's song 'Down Under' was the #1 song on Billboard's Top 100 for three consecutive weeks only to be bumped off by Toto's 'Africa'. Men at Work then returned the favor by bumping Toto off the chart's re-entering the top spot. So the two new Ringo pals held the top spot for 5 weeks in a row. The fans enjoyed both songs and Hay and Lukather enjoyed playing and singing on each others smash hit.
It was now the true hometown boy Luke's turn again. He said to the still full house "I'm not even going to tell you". The Warren Ham keyboard intro did all of the talking by itself. The instantly recognizable intro had the few that were sitting rising to their feet. Luke even seemed to give it a little bigger hometown jolt than usual.
'Photograph' rounded out the Ringo #1's. Ham was front and center on sax and everyone but Bissonette singing. Ringo bid adieu to Graham Gouldman on his last All Starr show by jokingly saying "he has a bigger band to go to."
The proverbial Ringo show ending songs haven't changed. But it's always a notch more fun in L.A. The 'With a Little Help From My Friends/Give Peace a Chance' ending was no exception. Ringo and the All Starrs were joined by former All Starrs Joe Walsh (Eagles), Gary Wright and Edgar Winter. They were also joined by drum wizard Jim Keltner (Traveling Wilbury's/Bob Dylan) and drummer Matt Sorum (Gun's and Roses/Velvet Revolver). They all joined in center stage to sing along with Keltner up top on drums. It was a fun night for all on both sides of the stage. They call Nashville Music City but tonight Los Angeles was.
I had the chance to talk to Luke after the show and he told me "I had a great time...so many old friends and so many great musicians popping by to say hi. Some I had not seen in many years. The show itself was relaxed and the band was tight after working all year but also fun and loose. The best of both worlds. I LOVE playing with Ringo and all the guys. I will miss them."