WANTAGH, NY—Admit it, when you visit your beloved 71-year-old grandmother, don’t you sometimes wonder if this is the last time you’ll see her? The reason to buy a ticket to Ringo’s 13th All-Star Band this summer is to see The Beatles. Or, rather, one of them, while two of them are still with us.
The fact that the keys to each song the 71-year-old Ringo sang at Jones Beach had been massively lowered and that Mr. Starr was approximately near pitch from time to time didn’t really matter, except to people who follow such things. We cared not, either, that second drummer Gregg Bissonette played most of the fills until Ringo hit one or two snare shots to bring a song back to verse or chorus. Ringo’s entire share of the set encompasses Beatles songs, a few early ‘70s solo hits, and two numbers from his latest album, Ringo 2012. We come to see Ringo first, listen to him second, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Ringo’s joined on this tour by Bissonette, Steve Lukather (Toto), Gregg Rolie (Journey, Santana), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Todd Rundgren, and Mark Rivera. Bassist Richard Page sings his ‘80s hits, “These Broken Wings” and “Kyrie” in a clear, strong, moving tenor, and the Toto hits “Rosanna,” “Hold The Line” and “Africa” were delivered with proper bombast. But it was Todd Rundgren, performing “Bang On The Drum,” “Hello, It’s Me” and “I Saw The Light” while running back and forth across the stage, who stole this show with an unmatched energy, total commitment and a sense of spontaneous abandon. Without Todd, this incarnation of the All-Starr Band wouldn’t be the firecracker it is.
But the star remains Ringo, even when he’s not front and center. The Fab Faux can appear on Letterman, “Rain” can open and close on Broadway, and a thousand scary wig-and-girdle tribute bands can perfectly re-create songs from Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. But nowhere else can you physically look at the hands that led the opening tom-tom charge of “She Loves You,” the hi-hat signature early Beatles sound found on “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the three solo hits before each chorus of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” and the kettle drum fills of “A Day In The Life.” We’ve all listened to the music a billion times, dissected each nanosecond of tape time, and we show up to see those hands, that nose, and that living, breathing man who was part of a cultural earthquake that reverberates today.
All that’s required for a great Ringo experience is to see Ritchie bound onstage, flash peace signs, sway back and forth and lead the audience through “Yellow Submarine,” “Boys,” “Don’t Pass Me By” and the other million-sellers. On that level, the All-Starr Band more than satisfies. We love Ringo and you know that can’t be bad.