Ringo Starr And His All Starrs At Beacon Theatre, Wednesday, November 15th, 2017, Reviewed
I have come to praise Ringo Starr not to bury him, but it don’t come easy. I’ll accept sitting through the likes of Richard Page and Steve Lukather’s disastrous power ballads if it means getting to hear Starr’s always propulsive and steadfast drumming and how it dismantles these long and brutal, pretentious and tedious jams, if I got it. I don’t. Starr is sitting behind his drums sure, but Gregg Bissonette, a journeyman whose claim to fame, that he played in the David Lee Roth band, isn’t one, did all the fills and they were as overdone as the songs itself. What I did like was Ringo, it is amazing how different his songs are to his bandmates: everything bloated in the All Starrs is scaled down and spritely when Ringo takes the lead.
Yes, let’s praise Starr. Long after me, him, you, our children, our children’s children and out children children’s children are dead, Starr will still be a legend. At 77 years of age, he looks great, slim and limber, and while he is absolutely an asshole, horrible to his fans for one thing, horrible to everyone else for another, wasn’t he always? Sulking through ”A Hard Day’s Night,” giving Paulie’s kid a hard time for messing with his drums, Ringo was only happy playing and now he isn’t even doing that. But I forgive him everything, if he was Harvey Weinstein I’d have the 100 women jailed.
At Beacon Theatre last night, every time Ringo took over the concert worked. Who else is opening their show by covering Carl Perkin’s “Matchbox” (“I ain’t got no matches but I got a long way to go!”) or resurrecting The Shirelles and Buck Owens? Who wants to hear the atrocious “Africa” when “Act Naturally“ is teeing off. You might be in the market for a fifteen minute “Black Magic Woman” (that is Gregg Rolie on keyboards), I am certainly nothing of the kind. It’s like getting whiplash, watching a string of songs with my eyes rolling back in my head, then snapping to attention when the Starr is back:
- I Saw the Light.
- Evil Ways.
- Bang the Drum All Day.
Why am I sitting through these dreadful performances of great (“Evil Ways”) to terrible (“Kyrie”) songs? I know, I know. Because I want to see Ringo sing “Photograph”. I do want to see that. I want to hear “Don’t Pass Me By” on stage, “Yellow Submarine”. It is impossible to overstate Starr’s importance to the Beatles and to popular culture: one of the band’s greatest charms was its entire lack of pretension, they carried their genius with ease and Ringo was absolutely integral to the post- aristocracy England world, the democratic Americanized every person can be whatever they want to be, and the working class heroes, Ringo, were the symbol of a truly new world order. The Beatles got right what Lenin couldn’t and didn’t.
But even that isn’t enough. Starr sings 13 songs he made famous in the 25 song set, it is much less than half the time on stage with the All Starrs because everybody else drags their songs out well past the point when you are thinking of a bumper. Last night we suffered through a pleasantly silly but uninspired Todd Rundgren instead of hearing “Goodnight Vienna,” “I’m The Greatest,” “Octopussy’s Garden,” “No No Song”. There simply isn’t enough of the great man.
Despite the irredeemable, unrelieved tedium of the All Starrs material, the band themselves are friendly and sweet on stage . Steve and Gregg Rolie have a friendly rapport, Gregg having a melt down after blowing a solo. Todd and Richard goof around together, and Todd, Richard, and Steve imitate another threesome’s harmonies on “Don’t Pass Me By”. It might all be feigned but it sure didn’t look that way from where I was sitting. I didn’t really like the band, they jammed way too much and really, where was Ringo? Why was he sequestered behind his drums, and if he had to be, why didn’t they make the drums mobile so he could be center stage? This isn’t open to debate, we were there to see the former Beatle, who went from a country change of pace, to a King of 1970s glam (where he directed a documentary on Marc Bolan no less), quit movies and alcohol and has spent knocking on 30 years with the All Starrs.
“What’s my name?”