By Dave Burke daveburke.photography Milwaukee, WI. 10-17-15
Icon, legend, the terms tend to be thrown around loosely, but it’d be hard to argue that Ringo Starr isn’t truly deserving of the labels. Even now, 45 years after the break up of The Beatles, it’s almost impossible to escape their musical and cultural impact. Though Ringo is unquestioningly the star attraction (pun intended), his bandmates, guitarists Todd Rundgren and Steve Lukather (Toto), keyboardist Gregg Rolie (Santana / Journey), bassist Richard Page (Mr. Mister) and renowned session men Warren Ham (saxophone) and Gregg Bissonette (drums), have over 40 years of chart topping hits and radio staples between them as well.
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As the sold out Riverside Theater anxiously awaited the show, a four piece drum kit, blue star on it’s kick drum, was the sole thing visible on the darkened stage. When “ladies and gentleman, RINGO STARR” bellowed from the P.A. the stage lights came up, the band began to vamp and the now 75 year old Starr ran onstage to wild applause. While Ringo led his band through a bluesy cover of Carl Perkins’ classic “Matchbox” you could almost feel a collective “Oh My God, It’s a Beatle” sweep through the crowd! Starr waved, flashed peace signs and answered every cat call of “we love you Ringo” with a smile and an “I love you too” as the band began the first of his solo hits, 1971’s, “It Don’t Come Easy”.
Starr made his way to his drum throne, with Rundgren taking center stage for his 1972 power pop gem “I Saw The Light”. While Bissonette took lead drum duties Ringo settled in to his support slot as dutiful time keeper allowing each band member to deliver signature hits, including Santana’s “Evil Ways” and “Black Magic Woman” , Toto’s “Rosanna”, “Africa” and “Hold The Line”, Mr. Mister’s Broken Wings” and a crowd pleasing “Bang The Drum All Day” delivered by the always colorful Rundgren. Taking center stage once more Starr enthusiastically delivered his own solo hits “Photograph”, “You’re Sixteen” as well as covers of Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” and The Shirelles’ “Boys”. Boy’s being a particular standout, it being Ringo’s vocal debut with The Beatles & the only song of the evening on which he handled both drum and vocal duties.
As one would expect the trademark cheeky Liverpool humor that helped endear the “Fab Four” to the world is still present.
Preceding The Beatles “Don’t Pass Me By”, Starr melodramatically recounted how until that particular song all the material he had submitted to the group had been “laughed at “ and rejected, eliciting laughs and a collective “awww” in unison.
At the songs completion Star quipped that once he wrote those “immortal lines” “You Were In A Car Crash and You Lost Your Hair”, he knew (John) Lennon and (Paul) McCartney had better “watch out”. Through out the 2 hour set the two time Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductee was loose and playful with his adoring fans, teasing “Would you like to hear one from that other band I was in…Rory Storm and the Hurricanes”, before leading an enthusiastic sing along of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine”.
If I were going to nit pick anything about the evening, I’d have to say the inclusion of a pair of new songs written by this incarnation of the band did slow the pace of the show just a bit, they were definitely taken as strategic moments to grab a drink or use the rest room between the other crowd pleasers. I’d also have to say that in my opinion Starr doesn’t always get his due as a drummer, so it would have been nice to see his drumming take a little more of a lead role over the course of the night, (see video below for some of the greats that have followed in his footsteps, commenting on his influence). That being said, not a single person, from children to grandparents left without a smile on their face having been treated to an evening of hit music delivered by seasoned pros and lead by a true icon of popular music.