BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Back in 1964, when The Beatles were considered by many (including the group itself) to possibly be another passing fad, a reporter asked Starr, then the group’s 23 year-old drummer, what he would do when their popularity ended. “I’ve always fancied having a string of ladies’ hairdressing salons,” he replied, probably half in earnest.
Here it is, 50 years later, and the former Richard Starkey, who turns 74 on July 7th, is still out there, performing and recording. Looking slim, fit and far younger than his actual age, the “world’s most famous drummer,” who is reportedly worth more than $300 million, obviously doesn’t have any financial incentive to keep doing this.
However, leading his All-Starr bands (something he’s done since1989), he seems happy as a kid in a candy store, having the time of his life, repeatedly flashing his trademark two-fingered peace sign.
The current aggregation consists of ex-Santana singer and keyboardist Gregg Rolie, former Toto guitarist and singer Steve Lukather, ex-Mr. Mister singer and bassist Richard Page and “Mr. Versatile,” Todd Rundgren. This lineup lacked the big-name star power of previous All-Starr bands, which included the likes of Peter Frampton, John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, Joe Walsh and Billy Preston. Nevertheless, this current group was far stronger than the 2008 version that I’d seen with Colin Hay, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright and Billy Squier.
Aided by saxophonist-flutist and part-time back-up singer Warren Ham and the superb drumming of Gregg Bissonette, the band served up one great hit after another.
Rolie was excellent on his past Santana hits, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” “Evil Ways” and the super-fast-paced instrumental “Soul Sacrifice,” with Lukather replicating the original hot licks of Carlos Santana. Lukather also won over the crowd with his renditions of Toto’s “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “Hold The Line,” although it was obvious that Ham sang the upper-register parts.
Page brought back Mr. Mister’s patented 1980s mellow synth sound with “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings.” He also debuted a fine new composition, “You Are Mine.”
Todd Rundgren, with blond-streaked hair, a day prior to his 66th birthday, ran around the stage with teenage glee that matched Starr’s. Attired in a black t-shirt with a bull’s eye (perhaps an homage to The Who) and form-fitting black leather pants, he performed, “I Saw The Light,” “Love Is The Answer” and got out the drum kit for “Bang The Drum All Day.
The ringleader of the night’s festivities was, naturally, Starr himself. He performed eight of the eleven songs he sang lead with The Beatles, “Yellow Submarine,” “Boys,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Matchbox,” “Honey Don’t”, “Act Naturally” and “Don’t Pass Me By,” the obvious omission being “Octopus’s Garden.” He also performed such past solo hits as “Photograph” and “It Don’t Come Easy,” as well as two new songs, “Wings” and “Anthem,” from his latest album, “Ringo 2012.”
Of course, nothing could top the predicted show closer, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” which brought the crowd to its feet and a huge smile to the ever-beaming Ringo.
Starr’s current tour continues through the end of July.