Monday, August 9, 2010

Six things I learned at...
(08.07.10 - Greek Theatre, L.A.)

As anyone who has seen Ringo Starr & His All Star Band live can attest, the marquee attraction may be the former Beatles drummer, but the evening's highlights undeniably come from within his band. Case in point, Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, where the crowd didn't leave their seats until Edgar Winter took the helm five songs into the set and delivered his classic "Free Ride."

Think about that for a minute... One of two living members of the most influential band in rock and roll history performs at one of the most celebrated amphitheaters in the world, and it takes a guy that probably couldn't headline a venue larger than a House of Blues to get the crowd on their feet - two songs after Ringo Starr delivers the Beatles' 1964 cover of Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't."

Therein lies the difference between seeing Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Macca celebrates the Beatles. Ringo celebrates what the Beatles meant. One celebrates how they got there, the other celebrates what happened from there. They both twist and shout, but to the beat of their own drums. To his credit, as was the case with the Beatles, Ringo knows that his beat is heightened by his band.

Ringo delivered six solo songs and six Beatles songs - "Honey Don't," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Yellow Submarine," "Boys," "Act Naturally" and "With a Little Help from My Friends" - but none proved more satisfying than his All Star Band's hits. He earned his legend as a drummer not a frontman, and we saw why at the Greek - his vocals were often spoken more than sung, his delivery was a bit awkward outside his kit, and his banter seemed rehearsed and superficial.

Introducing new material, he commented that new release Y Not "is the first time I hit double digits - I want to thank the 12 of you who bought it," and he made at least two references to his band receiving more applause than him. I found it annoying, the woman behind me thought it was hysterical (more on her later). To each their own, but I like my icons to embrace their brilliance, not their shortcomings.

Ringo Starr is a living legend - as much as I may have thought his performances fell flat, he was the only reason I attended the show. I didn't go to celebrate the Beatles, I went to celebrate Ringo, his legacy, and the rock and roll that he inspired... He's Ringo Starr, dammit, and that's more than enough for me!

But I knew all of that walking in - here are six things I learned by the time I was walking out...

1. Richard Page can flex those golden pipes!
I had to look up who Richard Page was when I heard he was in the All Star Band, yet after the Mr. Mister frontman performed "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings," I told my wife that I thought he stole the show. She agreed. His vocals were sublime. So good, that despite the fact that I'd never given Mr. Mister a passing thought, now I'd go see them in a heartbeat. So good, that I now think of Richard Page's performance when I hear the song "Broken Wings," not the adorable black E*Trade baby that 'flexes his golden pipes' in one of my favorite television commercials of all time. Richard Page was that good.

2. Sometimes one hit is all you need.
Gary Wright might wish he wasn't a poster boy for one-hit wonders, but who says that's a bad thing? Especially when your one hit is "Dream Weaver." If Richard Page stole the show, Gary Wright made the show. His "Dream Weaver" was the first song to be performed after nightfall, and the song meant even more after he explained that it was inspired by Beatles guitarist George Harrison. The song is epic, the mood was magic, and the results were mesmerizing. It was a performance I will never forget. Ever.

3. Rick Derringer is more than just Sloopy Hoochie Koo.
I always had Rick Derringer pegged as a crusty classic rocker with a few big novelty songs. That hasn't necessarily changed, but it's been built upon - now I see him as a crusty classic rocker who can play the hell out of a guitar (and has a few novelty songs). I didn't know "Hang On Sloopy" was the byproduct of his teenage band The McCoys, and I also didn't know that when the song rose to No. 1, The Beatles were at No. 2 with "Yesterday" (they unseated him the following week). Did you know that Derringer played with both Alice Cooper and Steely Dan? That his first widespread exposure came opening for the Rolling Stones in 1966, and that he also opened for Led Zeppelin on their last U.S. tour? Or how about that he discovered "Weird Al" Yankovic? Respect has been earned...

4. There's enough Sloopy Hoochie Koo to go around.
Off the top of your head, how would you define 'Sloopy Hoochie Koo'? I think it's a little bit of that space cadet glow Pink Floyd sing about, a healthy aura of peace and love, and a dose of the nuttiness that makes rock and roll stars so endearing. And that described Edgar Winter a lot more than Rick Derringer. The albino rocker riled the capacity crowd up with his "Free Ride," then treated them to his multi-instrumental prowess during "Frankenstein," when he played keyboards, synthesizer, saxophone and drums. His long white hair accented a black t-shirt with a silver peace sign, and his voice cracked so high, at times I swore he was Poison guitarist C.C. Deville's father. They just don't make 'em like him anymore!

5. Playing with Ringo Starr is as cool as it seems.
Just ask Wally Palmar, the lead singer and guitarist of the Romantics. It's no secret that his band was inspired by the Beatles, which made his intro even more stirring when, coming out of "Talking in Your Sleep," he re-introduced Ringo to perform one of his favorite Fab Four songs, "I Wanna be Your Man." Had someone told Palmar twenty years ago, when he was plugging away in the Motor City, that he'd someday tour with Ringo Starr, he'd have likely laughed in their face. Fast forward to 2010 - not only is he member of the All Star Band, "What I Like About You" is also one of the set's shining moments. I just wish he had worn a red leather suit.

6. Middle-aged women are more entertaining than teenagers.
I have a pet peeve - people at concerts who are oblivious of everyone around them. In the case of the woman behind us, at least she offered entertainment value. I'd guess her to be in her late-40s, which made her thigh-high stripper boots all the more fantastic. She asked my wife and I to move so we weren't directly in front of her, and when we did, she proceeded to move directly behind us. Probably because she needed a better grip on the railing she was swinging from throughout the set. Anytime Ringo said something, she cackled a laugh that only a plastic carafe of red wine could inspire (how she never spilled it on us, I'll never know), and she was absolutely fascinated by the staging, which featured a "ring" circling a "star" behind the drum kit. She even tried a stagerush. My wife, the master of self-portraits, actually managed to get a picture of us with her in the background... A good time was had by all!


1- It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
2- Honey Don't (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
3- Choose Love (Ringo Starr)
4- Hang On Sloopy (Rick Derringer, The McCoys)
5- Free Ride (Edgar Winter)
6- Talking in Your Sleep (Wally Palmar, The Romantics)
7- I Wanna Be Your Man (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
8- Dream Weaver (Gary Wright)
9- Kyrie (Richard Page, Mr. Mister)
10- The Other Side of Liverpool (Ringo Starr)
11- Yellow Submarine (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
12- Frankenstein (Edgar Winter)
13- Peace Dream (Ringo Starr)
14- Back Off Boogaloo (Ringo Starr)
15- What I Like About You (Wally Palmar, The Romantics)
16- Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo (Rick Derringer)
17- Boys (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
18- Love Is Alive (Gary Wright)
19- Broken Wings (Richard Page, Mr. Mister)
20- Photograph (Ringo Starr)
21- Act Naturally (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
22- With a Little Help from My Friends (Ringo Starr, The Beatles)
23- Give Peace a Chance (Ringo Starr, Plastic Ono Band)

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