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The Starr of Stars

“I wish there was some way that you and Tom could come and hear my band …” 72 hours with Ringo in town

By Tom Frangione

Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since Ringo Starr hit the road for his maiden tour with his first All Starr Band (ASB). At the press conference to kick off the tour in 1989, I ended up having the honor of tossing out the question about what the repertoire may look like, and Ringo launching his long-used catch phrase “the songs you know and love”.

Even harder to believe is that four of those original eight members of this vaunted group are now up in rock and roll heaven. A quarter century later, Ringo is now joined by his 13th ensemble for his 2014 summer/fall tour. I actually think of them as version 12.5, since it’s the same cast as has been on board since the 2012-13 tours, with the exception of Mark Rivera having been replaced by Warren Ham on this summer’s jaunt due to touring commitments with Billy Joel. The repertoire is unchanged from last year, an unprecedented stretch in the ASB annals, and it’s easy to see why.

Ringo loves this band. Admittedly, “on paper”, this one had a lot of folks scratching their heads before the band ever took to the stage. A mix of holdovers and newcomers, the songs being brought to the table were truly a mixed bag, ranging from the catalog of Santana to Toto to Mr. Mister. But, like several such amalgams before them (Wally Palmar and Rick Derringer? Really? Really?), the proof was in the playing and Ringo, along with musical director Mark Rivera put together a completely cohesive band who consistently knock it out of the park.

This year’s ensemble came to the greater New York area in mid-June for a special set of appearances. On June 17-18 they played New York City’s famed Beacon Theater. The set list was identical to the lone 2013 US shows in Las Vegas, having been modified only slightly (three songs swapped out since the initial shows in the summer of 2012), but the band was truly on fire. The “secret sauce” in this ASB mix is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gregg Rollie performing the hits he sang with Santana (Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen and Oye Como Va, with Toto guitarist extraordinaire Steve Lukather delivering scorching solos truly worthy of the Santana name. Continuing the long tradition of guest appearances that mark the NYC shows, Rivera sat in on Oye Como Va, and together with E-Streeter and Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt, Judy Collins, and former ASB lead guitarist Billy Squier for the With A Little Help From My Friends finale.

Ringo himself was in fine voice and spirits. In contrast to the 2012 and 2013 dates, I found Anthem to be the stronger of the two selections from his most recent album that were performed (Wings got the nod on the previous legs).

With one night off before the next gig, Ringo (through the auspices of Neal Glaser’s Celebrity Art) hosted a fundraiser for his charity, The Lotus Foundation, at the SoHo Contemporary Art gallery in lower Manhattan. Several new pieces of Ringo’s art were unveiled, and fans arranging a purchase of the signed art were afforded a photo op and meet & greet, with all of Ringo’s proceeds going to the cause, whose primary objective is to assist in family and child welfare, animal protection, and addiction recovery and education.

While I’d met Ringo and gotten the handshake and autograph at a few in-store appearances and press conferences over the years, any of the pictures from those events were of him, not “us”. With that in mind, I became a patron, and acquired a neat image called Peace App from 2012, duly signed by the artist. And on June 19th, we went to the event for the photo and meeting.

The gallery event was very well run – organized, pleasant, and efficient without being rushed. We were given numbered VIP lanyards to keep things orderly (we were #12 out of a couple dozen or so patrons). While awaiting our turn, we were lucky enough to chat up each of the ASB members (except Todd Rundgren, who was a no-show). Having seen the show the night before, it was a good opportunity to tell the musicians just how much we enjoyed it, and they seemed genuinely appreciative and engaging.

As #11 was enjoying their moment with Ringo, our hearts were racing. As Neal led us up to meet Ringo, my girlfriend Lisa reached out to shake his hand, which he rejected in favor of a full-on hug (I had to do everything but clear my throat….). After what seemed like a mini eternity, I shook Ringo’s hand and we positioned for the photo. Several shots were taken, by both the official gallery staff and Ringo’s photographer Rob Shanahan.

In our couple of minutes, I got to tell Ringo how much we enjoyed the Beacon show the night before, and that we were going to the show in New Jersey the next night. After the requisite “Thanks, that’s great”, I went on to tell him that I hadn’t missed a single All Starr tour (ever) and that his music had a profound (I remember using that word) effect on my life, that it brought me a lot of happiness, and said I just wanted to thank him for all that. He replied along the lines of “Wow, you’re too kind”. I’m sure there was a touch of Ralph Kramden in there (hummina-hummina-hummina) but I think I held it together ok. I’ve not stopped staring at the photo for three days now.

With that order of business now firmly off the bucket list, we made the trek to Red Bank, NJ on the 20th for the concert at the beautiful Count Basie Theatre. The show was packaged with the venue’s annual patron gala (dubbed “With A Little Help From Our Friends” to mark the occasion), with a banquet area outside the theatre. That said, benefactors took up a pretty big chunk of the prime seats; the few orchestra seats that did make it to public sale were priced at the VIP level (first 12 rows), and were packaged with an exclusive specially designed concert shirt, a numbered/limited tour lithograph, commemorative tour laminate and other exclusive tour gift items.

That said, the show itself was identical to the previous ones at The Beacon and other tour stops, and there were no cameos (despite being in the heart of Springsteen / E Street Band country). However, winning over the “gala” crowd proved to be a challenge that Ringo and the band were more than up for. This was a crowd who looked like they were going to sit on their hands all evening (no one was even up for the rousing opener as Ringo ran onstage to sing Matchbox). By the fourth number, Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light”, they’d been won over not only by Ringo, but the band too, judging by the “hey I know this song” comments that seemed to emanate from our seating vicinity with virtually each new number.

That’s right. The ones you know … and love.

Is Ringo Coming to Your Town?

  • June 24 Lewiston, NY
  • June 25 Verona, NY
  • June 27 Clarkston, MI
  • June 28 Chicago, IL
  • June 29 Cleveland, OH
  • July 1 Toledo, OH
  • July 3 Robinsonville, MS
  • July 5 Thackerville, OK
  • July 7 No Show on Ringo’s Birthday
  • July 9 Albuquerque, NM
  • July 11 San Diego, CA
  • July 12 Santa Barbara, CA
  • July 13 San Jose, CA
  • July 15 Vancouver, BC, CA
  • July 16 Woodinville, WA
  • July 17 Bend, OR
  • July 19 Los Angeles, CA

New shows to hit Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina and Mississippi with multiple stops in Texas and Florida - Fall 2014.

  • October 2 - Catoosa, OK - The Joint at Hard Rock Casino / Tulsa
  • October 3 - St. Louis, MO - Fabulous Fox Theatre
  • October 4 - Kansas City, MO - Starlight Theatre
  • October 5 - Omaha, NE - CenturyLink Center Omaha
  • October 7 - San Antonio, TX - The Tobin Center For Performing Arts
  • October 8 - Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater
  • October 10 - The Woodlands, TX - The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
  • October 15 - North Charleston, SC - North Charleston Performing Arts Center
  • October 17 - Biloxi, MS - Hard Rock Live Biloxi
  • October 18 - Jacksonville, FL - Moran Theater
  • October 19 - Fort Myers, FL - Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
  • October 21 - Fort Lauderdale, FL - Broward Center For The Performing Arts
  • October 22 - Melbourne, FL - King Center For Performing Arts
  • October 23 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall

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