By John Curley
Ringo Starr is 75 years old. That fact might seem shocking to anyone that witnessed the finale to the latest tour by his All-Starr Band at Brooklyn’s beautiful Kings Theatre on Halloween night, Saturday, October 31st. Starr was energetic, his drumming was steady and crisp, and his vocal performance was top notch. In addition, he looked very fit and seemed to be really enjoying himself.
And the All-Starr Band is a band in the truest sense of the word, with everyone in the band getting their moment in the spotlight during the two-hour-and-five-minute, 25-song set. In addition to Starr on vocals and drums, the current lineup of the All-Starr Band features Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitar, Santana’s Gregg Rolie on keyboards and organ, Mr. Mister’s Richard Page on bass, Todd Rundgren on guitar, Gregg Bissonette on drums, and Warren Ham on saxophone, keyboards, and percussion.
Since the show took place on Halloween, the music playing in the venue before the show started included appropriate tunes like Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” and The Who’s “Boris The Spider.” The stage at Kings Theatre featured a giant spider web behind the drum kits.
When the show began, the band took the stage wearing either Halloween masks or full costumes and they performed the opening song, a cover of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” that featured Starr on lead vocal, in those costumes and masks. The best costume was probably the one worn by Page, who was dressed as Donald Trump.
The costumes and masks came off as the band launched into the second song, “It Don’t Come Easy.” It featured fantastic work on the saxophone by Ham and had the very enthusiastic crowd singing along throughout.
Starr seemed to really enjoy his vocal turns on the night. “Island In The Sun” received a nice hand and also featured stellar saxophone stylings courtesy of Ham. While Starr performed his first three songs on lead vocals in front of the band, he was behind the kit for the wonderfully raucous cover of The Shirelles’ “Boys.” As Starr pounded the skins and belted out the lead vocal with as much gusto as he did when performing the song with The Beatles in 1964, Lukather, Rundgren, and Page were, at times, singing the backing vocals together at one microphone as John Lennon and Paul McCartney sometimes did back in the day of The Beatles.
Starr introduced “Don’t Pass Me By” by telling the crowd that it was the first composition of his that was recorded by The Beatles. He began the song at Ham’s keyboard and then bounded down to front the band for the remainder of the song to the delight of the audience. And Starr remained in front of the band to lead what became a theater-wide singalong to a joyful “Yellow Submarine.”
A good bit of the crowd also sang along to Starr’s cover of Johnny Burnette’s “You’re Sixteen” and his rendition of “I’m The Greatest,” which he introduced by saying the song had been written for him by John Lennon, received a nice hand from the audience. One of the many highlights of the night was Starr’s rendition of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man.” The band seemed to have a great time playing it. They seemed like kids in a candy store, probably living out teenage fantasies of getting to play with The Beatles. The band members were exchanging smiles, with Rundgren and Page playfully crashing into each other. The performance of “Photograph” triggered another audience singalong, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy Starr’s country-flavored cover of Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally.”
When the spotlight of the show shifted to Rolie, Lukather, Page, and Rundgren, Starr backed them on drums. These sections of the concert at times made Starr appear to be a sideman at his own show. But it was a real treat to get to see one of the most famous drummers in the world plying his trade and just being one of the guys in the band. And the set list of the show was carefully assembled to stagger the songs by each of the vocalists throughout the set.
The ageless Rundgren was the first of the band to be featured on lead vocal at the show. Rundgren’s stellar version of his song “I Saw The Light” received a massive reaction from the crowd. A single drum was placed by Rundgren’s microphone so that he could beat on it during a rousing version of his “Bang The Drum All Day” that got the crowd singing along. The highlight of the three songs performed by Rundgren was a terrific version of the beautiful Utopia song “Love Is The Answer,” which had received a heartfelt introduction by Starr.
Rolie took on lead-vocal duties for a great version of Willie Bobo’s “Evil Ways,” a song that had appeared on the first Santana album. Starr left the stage briefly to let his band shine on Rolie’s version of “Back Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen.” That performance featured stellar organ work from Rolie and fantastic drumming by Bissonette. The cover of Tito Puente’s “Oye como va” that featured Rolie on lead vocal was bolstered by terrific fretwork by Lukather and more great drumming courtesy of Bissonette.
Lukather’s first lead-vocal turn was on an extended version of Toto’s “Rosanna” that had the crowd roaring and up on their feet throughout the song. Lukather also sang lead on a wonderfully mellow take on Toto’s “Africa” and a hard-rocking turn on Toto’s classic-rock nugget “Hold The Line.”
Page was the lead vocalist on an excellent version of Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” that was supported by terrific backing vocals from the rest of the band. Page also sang lead on his own “You Are Mine” and a pleasant version of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings.”
The entire show had a celebratory feel to it as the crowd was in very good spirits and the band seemed to be really enjoying themselves. The feel-good vibe in the room increased by a few notches when the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt and Max Weinberg joined the band to perform on the two closing songs, “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Give Peace A Chance.” Van Zandt performed backing-vocal duties and, since Starr fronted the band for these songs, Weinberg very happily sat behind Starr’s kit to form a powerful drumming tandem with Bissonette. The crowd was on their feet for this finale, roaring and singling along. It was the perfect end to the band’s tour and to a great night of music in the Borough of Kings.
The set list for the show was as follows:
Matchbox (cover of song by Carl Perkins with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Island In The Sun (Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
I Saw The Light (Todd Rundgren song with Rundgren on lead vocal)
Evil Ways (cover of song by Willie Bobo with Gregg Rolie on lead vocal)
Rosanna (cover of song by Toto with Steve Lukather on lead vocal)
Kyrie (cover of song by Mr. Mister with Richard Page on lead vocal)
Bang The Drum All Day (Todd Rundgren song with Rundgren on lead vocal)
Boys (cover of song by The Shirelles with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Don’t Pass Me By (cover of song by The Beatles with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Yellow Submarine (cover of song by The Beatles with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen (cover of song by Santana with Gregg Rolie on lead vocal)
You’re Sixteen (cover of song by Johnny Burnette with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
I’m The Greatest (Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
You Are Mine (Richard Page song with Page on lead vocal)
Africa (cover of song by Toto with Steve Lukather on lead vocal)
Oye como va (cover of song by Tito Puente with Gregg Rolie on lead vocal)
I Wanna Be Your Man (cover of song by The Beatles with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Love Is The Answer (cover of song by Utopia with Todd Rundgren on lead vocal)
Broken Wings (cover of song by Mr. Mister with Richard Page on lead vocal)
Hold The Line (cover of song by Toto with Steve Lukather on lead vocal)
Photograph (Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Act Naturally (cover of song by Buck Owens with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
With A Little Help From My Friends (cover of song by The Beatles with special guests Steven Van Zandt and Max Weinberg, and with Ringo Starr on lead vocal)
Give Peace A Chance (cover of song by the Plastic Ono Band with special guests Steven Van Zandt and Max Weinberg, and with lead vocal by the full band)