Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
Smart Financial Center
November 2, 2017
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band aren’t out here trying to rock the boat. As one of the most famous musicians who has ever lived, Ringo Starr can do whatever he wants onstage, and what he’s settled on is grabbing a few of his songwriting buddies and sharing the spotlight with them, filling up a two-hour set with plenty of songs you know in between Ringo’s turns at the mike. He’s been touring with the current version of the All-Starr Band for the last few years, and if you’ve seen him any time after 2012, the 2017 version of the show is pretty much exactly what you remember, minus a song or two.
Six years has given the group plenty of time to lock down this particular set of songs, and they perform them well, looking and sounding like a real group instead of a rag-tag group of songwriting superstars trying to find their place with each other. But since we’re all still amped from the Astros’ big win, let’s break things down member by member. Although the group would not be what it is without drummer Gregg Bissonette and man of all skills Warren Ham, here’s how the individual All Starrs rank:
5. Todd Rundgren
There’s no doubt that Rundgren is talented, and there’s also no doubt that he’s trying just a bit too hard when he takes the stage. Yes, his hijinks make him stand out, but his songs really don’t compare to those of the rest of the group. “Bang the Drum All Day” sounds like an unclever Weird Al track. Also, he called Sugar Land “Sweetwater” until he was corrected. (Personal Bias: I’m #TeamOcasek.)
4. Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey)
Rolie is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for good reason; it’s just kind of a bummer that he doesn’t have more to do in this show. He’s got a couple of good keyboard solos, and the Santana tracks do a good job of adding some sonic variety to the setlist, but he’s not really the star of those tracks even when he’s the lead vocalist on them.
3. Richard Page (Mr. Mister)
The best pure front man of the group, Page ends up in the middle of the pack because even though his songs are good, “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” just kind of sound out of place in the setlist with their big synth sounds. Still, he put down some excellent bass and his voice has held up well. I would not mind seeing what he could do if he formed a band with...
2. Steve Lukather (Toto)
Lukather can shred, and gets to flex his skills over multiple staples of the classic-rock world, doing a damn fine job at it. While his vocals are not as sharp as those of the rest of the group, his guitar work more than makes up for it, bringing the most energy to the show. For a while they weren’t playing “Africa” on this tour — which is insane, because how do you tour with the guy from Toto and not play “Africa”? — but it’s back and one of the better non-Beatle singalong moments of the show.
1. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)
Ringo Starr does not feel like he’s 77. He’s still got a spring in his step, still likes to be behind the drums and still comes off like a born entertainer. He’s got his banter and his peace signs and he’s exactly the Ringo you want him to be. It never mattered how good the pieces around him were because before the show, people talked about him with a certain reverence you don’t hear very often (unless you’re living in a city with a baseball team that’s about to win the World Series; then yeah, you’ve probably heard that reverence this week), so nothing was going to outshine him. But he doesn’t phone it in when he grabs the mike, and while this tour is nothing new, its formula is satisfying.
So yes, if you’ve seen this show before, nothing about it now will surprise you. But no one goes to see Ringo Starr for surprises. They go for a few hours of peace and love with a Beatle, and Ringo gives them everything they want, and a little more with the help of his friends.
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Personal Bias: Ringo is my favorite Beatle. I love his voice. I can’t help it.
The Crowd: I ended up sitting in what I assume was the high-drama section of the crowd. Our little area was made up of three groups of people: Group one was the people who wanted to stand the entire show; group two was the people who wanted to sit the entire show and was mad at group one for standing; and group three was the people who didn’t care about sitting or standing but were getting real sick of group two’s complaining. I’m a firm group three person.
Overheard In the Crowd: “I don’t care if she doesn’t want to go, I’m seeing a Beatle tonight!” said a guy outside the venue who explained about why he was selling a single ticket to the show. Sometimes your wife doesn’t want to go to a show and you do. It happens.
Random Notebook Dump: Multiple members of the band mentioned being from California before giving the Astros their props for winning the World Series. The crowd went wild every time it came up, as there were plenty of people rocking the orange and blue at the show.