SALAMANCA, NY – The word “concert” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band.
When the musicians take the stage, they don’t just perform a show; they provide a lesson in rock’n’roll with Professor Starr at the front of the class.
The band was in Western New York Saturday, and the classroom for its two-hour lesson was the Seneca Allegany Event Center.
For much of the evening, Starr was the frontman, performing songs from his Beatles days, as well as from his solo career. But he was just as comfortable behind his drum set, keeping the beat at the back of the stage while his fellow band members took turns sharing the spotlight.
Todd Rundgren, sporting a bright green guitar, played his 1972 hit single “I Saw the Light” and grabbed a set of drumsticks to lead the band and the audience in a rousing rendition of “Bang the Drum All Day,” his 1983 anthem to the joys of avoiding work.
Keyboardist Gregg Rolie, who achieved great success with Journey, reached back to his earlier days with Santana for a trio of familiar tunes that included “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” Rolie’s vocals and keyboard work were true to the originals, but Toto guitarist Steve Lukather added new life to the tunes, and Gregg Bissonette’s powerful drum work was reminiscent of Michael Shrieve’s iconic performance with Santana at the 1969 Woodstock festival.
Throughout the evening, Lukather stood out as a star among the All Starrs, but it was his words – not his musicianship – that delivered the most significant message of the night. Echoing the sentiments of the other band members, he told the crowd what an honor it is to share the stage with Ringo, adding that if not for Ringo and the Beatles he and the other All Starrs would not have had careers in rock’n’roll.
Lukather’s words set the tone for the evening’s lesson in rock’n’roll. The All Starrs in Ringo’s band have gold albums, Grammy awards, commercial successes and unquestioned respect for their professionalism. Yet the thrill of sharing a stage with a Beatle was evident from their beaming faces, which shone brightest when they sang the parts that John, Paul and George sang on the original Beatle recordings of “Boys,” “What Goes On, “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
Ringo appeared just as excited to play and sing as the All Starrs took turns performing their own hits. He even looked quite at ease just tapping along to the melody as former Mr. Mister bassist/vocalist Richard Page added a softer touch to the evening with his performance of “You Are Mine” from his 2010 solo album “Peculiar Man.”
“You Are Mine” begins with a series of questions, one of which asks why John Lennon wrote about peace. The deceased Beatle was a big part of the lesson Ringo delivered to the audience. Before performing his solo hit “I’m the Greatest,” Ringo made sure to tell crowd that John wrote the song.
And the final portion of the concert, which featured Ringo reprising his lead vocals from “With a Little Help from My Friends” segued into Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” which sounded every bit as relevant as it did when John wrote it in 1969.
Likewise, Ringo Starr has not lost his relevancy over the years, as evidenced by the rock’n’roll lesson he and his All Starr band provided.