Thanks for coming out in the rain…as if that’s a big thing. I’m from England, where it always rains. — Ringo Starr
When Paul McCartney goes on tour, he has hundreds of titles in his catalog from six decades of songwriting (Beatles, Wings, solo) that he can choose to play in concert.
Though Ringo Starr played on all those Beatles tunes, he only sang a few of them, as well as a half-dozen hits of his own in the five years after he went solo. That’s not enough to fill a two-hour concert.
So, three decades ago, Ringo wisely took the advice of producer David Fishof and assembled an “All-Starr Band” of performers who could do their own songs while Ringo took his place behind a drum kit and backed them up. Since then, he’s rotated various musicians in 13 different incarnations of his All-Starr Band.
When the 2018 edition came to the Fox Theatre in St. Louis on Friday night, Ringo did “Matchbox,” “Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Boys,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and a few more before the finale, “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Fortunately, he didn’t do “The No No Song,” which is the second-worst song any Beatle ever recorded (Paul’s “Let ‘Em In” leads the list by a long shot — I wrote about it here). Unfortunately, Ringo did sing “You’re Sixteen,” which is just plain creepy coming out of the mouth of a 78-year-old man. By the way, why didn’t we think it was odd when he sang it in 1973, when he was 33?
For a man of his age, Ringo’s voice — which was never great — is still okay, but it helped a lot to have a half-dozen other guys on stage singing with him, including Gregg Bissonette on drums, Warren Ham on sax and flute, and these featured members (and the songs they performed):
- Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey (“Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va,” “Black Magic Woman”);
- Graham Gouldman of 10cc (“I’m Not In Love,” “The Things We Do For Love,” “Dreadlock Holiday”);
- Colin Hay of Men At Work (“Down Under,” “Overkill,” “Who Can It Be Now?”);
- Steve Lukather of Toto (“Rosanna,” “Africa,” “Hold The Line”).
Those are all songs I played to death and got sick of during my music radio days, but since I’ve been out of that for 20 years and hadn’t heard most of them in a long time, I found myself actually liking them again. When you add those 12 hits to the tunes Ringo performed, you get a pretty good evening of entertainment — and yet another senior citizen classic rocker I can check off my bucket list.
But I must add this: Ringo still has plenty of charisma, which helps sell tickets and establish good will with the audience from the moment he comes on stage. But he’s never had a lot of value as a songwriter. Almost every song the others did Friday night was more complex than Ringo’s so-simple tunes — especially one of his newest and most dreadful, “Anthem,” which contains the lyric: “This is an anthem, for peace and love/We’ve gotta keep trying, we can’t give up.” Combine that with continuous flashing of the peace sign and repeated entreaties about peace and love and it doesn’t take long to realize that while the members of Ringo’s band keep changing, his act doesn’t.