Photos & Story by Scott A. Smith
How on earth can anyone not go see Beatles drummer Ringo Starr in concert?
Over the years, some people, quite bizarrely, take unfair verbal pot shots at Starr, that perpetually smiling, left-handed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member who always plays the drums as if he were a right-handed craftsman. Curiously, virtually every one of those armchair guitarists who utter the elitist “He’s no Lennon/McCartney/Harrison” gobbledygook has never watched Starr — and most likely, no other Beatle — perform in person.
Starr’s full-house concert with his All Starr Band on Oct. 2 inside the Tulsa Hard Rock’s Joint was living, singing proof that Starr is more than worthy of ticket- buyers’ love and money. Note for note, Starr’s current All Star lineup — guitarists Steve Lukather (Toto) and Todd Rundgren, keyboardist Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey), bassist Richard Page (Mr. Mister), drummer Greg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Santana) and saxophone player-singer Warren Ham (Kansas, Bread) — could be, pound for pound, the most musically gifted roster to join Starr for a post-Fab Four tour. All of their voices were strong throughout the hit-filled, 2-hour set, with the first-tenor vocals of Page and Ham on Toto’s “Africa” and “Rosanna,” reaching high-water marks, respectively.
Not to be outdone, Starr sang with conviction, both from behind his red Ludwig set and while playfully stepping from side to side near the front of the stage. At age 74, the bearded, ring-wearing musical icon looked much younger than he should, with his voice and drumming sounding pretty much like they did on those still-relevant Beatles LPs. “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Boys” and “Yellow Submarine,” naturally, summoned several waves of cheers, whistles and claps, as did Starr’s trademark tune, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
Instrumentally, the All Starr Band nailed every song during the night, with Lukather’s wonderfully vicious guitar soloing on the Santana/Fleetwood Mac nugget, “Black Magic Woman,” running the risk of fooling everyone in the room into thinking it was he, and not Carlos Santana and Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green, who first struck artistic gold with the number.
Lukather, like everyone else on the stage, jumped head first into team-player mode, relinquishing some of the six-string leads to Rundgren. Donning a green shirt, green pants and gold-colored tennis shoes, Rundgren wailed on what looked like a Gibson SG guitar, playfully stalking the stage a la Lindsey Buckingham. When it came time for Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” Rundgren stood front and center and used red drum sticks to pound out the roto-tom-sounding patterns.
Page, who turned in fine vocal efforts on Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wing,” actually bested himself by trading bass for guitar with Rundgren for Page’s new song “You Are Mine,” An acoustic, beautifully haunting track that witnessed Starr play the rhythms while straddling and tapping an wooden, oak-colored box.
As great as everyone’s renditions were in Tulsa, Starr’s take on “Photograph,” a 1973 solo hit single written by Ringo with help from the late, always great George Harrison, was the moment that hit the rock-and-roll lottery. Heavy on choruses and light on verses, “Photograph” was note-perfect, with Starr flashing his two-handed peace signs and miraculously pulling off the near-impossible. In only three minutes’ time, the world’s most famous drummer made us simultaneously miss The Beatles immensely and shower the utmost respect upon the 2014 version of Ringo’s All Starr Band.