Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band
Live at The Ryman (Universal Music)
So Richard Starkey rounds up some mostly American heavyweight pals and heads out on the road once again. He always change his lineup around so that the only constant in the shows really is his bunch of Beatles and solo hits but this time around be includes a couple of cuts from his own latest album as well and so with each star guest presenting a Greatest Hit or two or three the show flows along very nicely indeed, thank you. It does look from the performances of the individuals as though this was a fun musical trek to be part of. Guitar ace Steve Lukather at one point calls it ‘the best summer vacation’ he can recall.
The Nashville audience seem to know nearly all the songs performed, joining in when commanded by the drumming host who wisely keeps his fan-unfriendly side away and ups the geniality for the whole of the show, proudly introducing his all-star cohorts and not at any point trying to upstage them. The nearest equivalent would be Bill Wyman’s touring band shows but here with more emphasis on classic rock hits than R&B. The musical quality is just as high and pleasingly the overall mood as upbeat as a Wyman show.
Past the point of needing to prove anything to anybody, the players involved sing and play, making sure that everyone else is neatly backed and showcased. Guitarists Todd Rundgren and Toto man Steve Lukather work particularly well together, with the latter taking most of the leads but Todd whacking out some stinging rock’n’roll breaks as and when. The Toto classics ‘Rosanna’, Hold The Line’ and yes, ‘Africa’ ( now what the **** is that song about ??) sound particularly crisp and delight the crowd whilst the Santana favourites dusted off by Hammond player and original Santana vocalist Gregg Rollie receive an electrified benediction, Lukather revelling in the legato guitar lines created by Carlos. Mister Mister bassist and singer Richard Page sounds stately and serene on ‘Kyrie Eleison’ and the ethereal “Broken Wings’ as the band twinkle and pluck damped chords behind the verses. Joel’s singer and sax man Mark Rivera has a strong and stunning voice, taking some of the higher lead lines with grace and power.
Rundgren at one point uses a psychedelic pained Gibson SG on a suitably Cream-style guitar solo but mostly uses his green strat-type custom axe ; Gregg Bisonette meanwhile is second drummer and powers the numbers with precision and enthusiasm.
Starr is Starr – his hits are tuneful and easy to sing along with and include ‘Boys’, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ and even ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ which here shudders with authentic Sixties beat group resonance.
By the time Joe Walsh ambles on for a slide-soaked and rickety ‘Rock Mountain Way’ the group is steaming and makes him sound quite wonderful, as he throws in snatches of Jimi and lays back on the beat. I bet The Eagles aren’t this much fun…
This could of course have been a bit of a sonic mess however the recording and sound quality is pretty high throughout and the camera crew manage to concentrate on the correct solo’ers and the inter- band grins and grimaces for the entire performance.
By encore time more musical greats have been invited up to sing along on the inevitable ‘With A Little Help..’ – Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Walsh’s daughter Lucy and the still enviably slender Richard Marx. The band tags on a few bars of ‘Give Peace A Chance’ after Ringo’s parting ‘peace and love’ exhortation and that’s yer lot……
So – no musical boundaries broken, no shocks or surprises. But quality pop/rock tunes given a respectable presentation by some of the best in the business and no ego-tripping in sight