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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ringo & His All-Starr Band bring on the hits from the 1970s and '80s

When I told my friend Scott that I was going to see Ringo Starr, he actually asked, "Is he still alive?" And he was serious.

*rolls eyes*



Velma is a huge Beatles fan (actually she's little, not huge, but she likes the Beatles a lot), so for her birthday last month I got her tickets to see Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, who were performing last night at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga.

I'm not a huge Ringo fan, but I like the Beatles a lot, and I was interested to see the show for two reasons: 1) I grew up a couple miles from the Mountain Winery but I've never been to a concert there in all these years, and 2) I was interested to see who was in Ringo's All-Starr Band (not to mention that it would be my first time seeing a Beatle).

Ringo has toured for over a decade with a rotating lineup that is a veritable who's who of rock and roll. Over the years the All-Starr Band has featured such notable musicians as Joe Walsh, Clarence Clemons, Nils Lofgren, John Entwistle, Peter Frampton, Jack Bruce, Howard Jones, Greg Lake, Sheila E., Richard Marx, and many, many more.

The day of the show, I had forgotten to look up who was touring with him this year, so I was wondering during the whole drive down to Saratoga.

This year's lineup consists of Ringo himself (of course), plus Colin Hay (singer from Men At Work), Billy Squier, Hamish Stuart (from Average White Band), Edgar Winter, Gary Wright (best known for his 1970s hit "Dream Weaver"), and Gregg Bissonette (drummer with David Lee Roth, Santana).

The beauty and uniqueness of Ringo's touring band is in the stars he gets. You wouldn't ordinarily see these guys together on stage unless it was at a rare one-off benefit concert or something. But the real brilliance is that they don't just play Beatles songs and Ringo solo material. Each member of the band gets one or two chances at center stage, to trot out a couple of their hits from the 1970s or '80s, with these other exceptional musicians backing him up.

And they are definitely hits. You'd probably know each one from the decades of radio play they've gotten, even if you didn't recognize the song titles, or the names of the guys responsible for them.

At first I didn't recognize Hamish Stuart, Colin Hay, or Gary Wright on sight or by name, but when each took center stage and began the songs they're famous for, it was obvious.

I was particularly psyched to see Edgar Winter and Billy Squier, who both completely rocked. I can't believe Edgar Winter's still rollicking through his über-hit "Frankenstein" after all these years, and still playing four or five different instruments during the song! That guy's gotta be about 104 by now.

Ringo is smart enough to know his roadshow has more appeal with the addition of these other marquee-name musicians. I mean, Ringo was a Beatle, yeah, but he's not the greatest singer of all time. As Velma put it, "I couldn't really listen to a whole show of Ringo singing."

But we both enjoyed the show a great deal. Even most of Ringo's stuff was enjoyable. And when we got bored we'd just scan the crowd to try to find anyone younger than us who wasn't there with their parents.

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