Back in 1989, Ringo Starr came up with a great idea: He would be the Ringmaster for a collection of still-agile rock stars performing their old hits and backing those of their colleagues. The band played the Greek Theater that year, and those who saw it savored the moment, wondering if they would ever see the then-elusive ex-Beatle perform again. They needn’t have worried. Sixty-eight years young, slim, trim and fit, Ringo is still on the road — and 19 years and 10 editions later, the All-Starr Band remains a surprisingly sturdy, entertaining vehicle.
While recent All-Starr Bands have been weaker and less starry than the early ones, the 10th edition put on a solidly rocking show at the Greek on Saturday night — and it wasn’t hard to pinpoint where the act had been fine-tuned.
The pacing was better; the dreary ballad hits that once sapped the momentum between the rockers were gone, and the two-hour-plus set flew by as a result. The stinging fuzz-tone lead guitar of Billy Squier, a holdover from 2006, had an energizing effect upon everyone’s hits.
Colin Hay, returning from the 2003 band, was in stronger form this time in “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now.” Edgar Winter, another 2006 alum, produced a driving “Free Ride” and blew Texas R&B alto and tenor saxes to his colleagues’ great benefit. All-Starr newcomer Gary Wright, a youthful 65, scored well with “Dream Weaver” and “Love Is Alive” — and Hamish Stuart (from Average White Band) led a straight, tight “Pick Up the Pieces.”
Ringo himself has been slowly expanding his repertoire, still relying on the core of Beatles classics (punched out with unjaded enthusiasm) yet keeping the best of his recent songs — the touching George Harrison tribute “Never Without You,” “Memphis in Your Mind,” “Choose Love” — and adding the new autobiographical “Liverpool 8” and one hitherto-overlooked solo hit, “Oh My My,” to the show. And it was a treat to watch the master work his drum kit, for all this touring has made him an even more active, subtle, grooving musician.
This tour ends at a time when Ringo Starr CDs have been pouring out like mad — five new releases in the last 16 months, three for Koch and two on Capitol. Although only one, “Liverpool 8,” has new studio material, that’s a rate unequaled for the Ringed One since the height of Beatlemania.