Ringos European Warm-Up Concert
By Tom Frangione
As I write this, Ringo and his 13th All Starr Band (ASB) are airborne en route to Paris to launch their 2018 summer tour of Europe, but less than 24 hours ago, they were bringing down the house at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ, where the band did a pair of warm-up gigs to road-test the new line up and set list.
The Borgata went all out in making it a Beatles friendly weekend, with shop window displays, piped in music throughout the resort, exhibits, and even a pop-up gallery to showcase Ringo’s latest artwork. To the delight of fans, though a poorly kept secret, the artist himself strolled in to say hello late Saturday afternoon.
As to the main event, The All Starrs delivered the now standard two-hour set with the band in top-form throughout. The reworked cast welcomes Colin Hay of Men at Work, for a third tour of duty, after a decade since his last ASB stint, and one newcomer - the legendary songwriter and 10cc band member Graham Gouldman, filling the seats vacated by Todd Rundgren and Richard Page, whose recent stints dated back to 2012.
Holdovers from the long-running ASB include two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Gregg Rolie on keyboards, Toto guitarist extraordinaire Steve Lukather, Warren Ham on sax & percussion and long-time drummer Gregg Bissonette.
This is Ringo’s first tour since the autumn of 2017 in the wake of his latest studio album, “Give More Love”, and the first since 2012 to draw material from a different canon of songs. The addition of Gouldman presented a deep catalog of hits not just from 10cc, but classics he wrote that became hits for The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, The Yardbirds and so many others. Frankly, he could have done an opening solo set before the show made up of this material. Alas, his offerings all came from the 10cc songbook and were among the best received numbers of the night.
The ever-popular Hay dutifully dipped into his 80’s hits with Men At Work as he did on his previous outings in 2003 and 2008.
For his repertoire, Ringo himself leapfrogged back to the past, ignoring not only “Give More Love” but also 2015’s “Postcards From Paradise” to revisit “Anthem” from his album “Ringo 2012”.
Ringo’s set list unfolded as follows:
Ringo of course kicks off the show, with the tried and true opening triplet of “Matchbox”, “It Don’t Come Easy” and “What Goes On”. For the latter, Ringo showed off his Beatles trivia chops, pointing out that it was the only song credited to “Lennon/McCartney/Starkey”, while lamenting he fought to change the order and put Starkey first!
First All Starr out of the gate was Gouldman, with an interesting choice, “Dreadlock Holiday”. Indeed, he pointed out it was a hit all around the world … except in America. No worries, the reggae infused track was superbly delivered, easily winning over those who may not have initially been familiar with it. While clearly being worked out for the European audiences, it will be very interesting to see if the song is in the set list for the US tour in September.
Next up are the by now dynamic-duo of this ASB cast, Rolie and Lukather. Rolie came up roses on the Santana favorite “Evil Ways”, with Toto’s Lukather delivering the first of several show-stopping guitar solos. Wasting no time, he followed with the Toto hit “Rosanna”, complete with said blinder, before turning it over to Hay for another reggae flavored number “Down Under”, with Ringo and Bissonette in sync on drums.
Back over to “the boss” for the first of two numbers sung behind the kit, “Boys”, a staple of the ASB repertoire, before moving over to piano for his white album original “Don’t Pass Me By”. Indeed, Ringo recalled writing many songs while in the Beatles (long pause) “but they didn’t record any of them”, affording some levity until he continued “until this one”, Capping off the first set, it was then audience sing along time with the Beatles hit single, “Yellow Submarine”.
Ringo left the stage for what is usually a single-song band showcase number, but for the current set, there would now be two performances. The first was the atmospheric “I’m Not In Love”, delivered with a very soulful vocal from Gouldman (who switched over from bass to guitar for the number), and terrific percussion from Bissonette, who played drums with one hand, while adding percussion with the other throughout the number. Superb.
The now standard “Black Magic Woman” with the Rolie/Lukather secret-sauce followed, inciting another standing ovation.
Ringo returned with his #1 single “You’re Sixteen” to get things bouncing again, followed by the aforementioned and less familiar “Anthem”. A very rhythmic triplet followed, with Hay shining on “Overkill”, Lukather delivering Toto’s “Africa” (a recent hit as reinterpreted by the band Weezer, as dutifully pointed out by the guitarist) and back to Rolie for Santana’s “Oye Como Va”.
Not to be outdone, Ringo sang his second song from the drummers chair, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, one that saw some action on former bandmate Paul McCartney’s most recent tour. Heads up to collectors: a terrific version of the two former fabs sharing lead vocal duties on this Beatles chestnut can be found on the digital download album of recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions.
Gouldman then completed his lead vocal duties with the 10cc mega-hit “The Things We Do For Love”. The up on your feet sing along vibe continued with Hay belting out “Who Can It Be Now” aided by the ripping sax courtesy of Ham, leading into a rocking “Hold The Line” with power chords a-la Luke.
Returning front and center, Ringo stepped up for a vocal turn on the fan-favorite “Photograph”, then taking a country turn for “Act Naturally” before capping the night with his signature song “With A Little Help From My Friends” and the now standard coda of ”Give Peace A Chance”.
As always, the jukebox vibe made for a delightful night. Be sure to catch it when the band returns to our shores in September.
Photos: Bob Gannon