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  • Writer's pictureBill Hernandez


Updated: Mar 6, 2023

“We had a little hiatus — but all is well,” Ringo Starr assured the Florida audience at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, as Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band returned to live performance on September 17 after Starr’s last bout with COVID (or as he referred to it, “the dreaded lurgy”).

Perhaps the unexpected break in the tour schedule meant there was more than a little pent up energy to burn. For the All Starrs were revved up and ready to go, bursting with such enthusiasm that Starr exclaimed, “The band is rockin’ tonight!” towards the end of the set. All the musicians seemed delighted to be back, and their good spirits were infectious.

Along with Starr, other members of the troupe include Colin Hay (Men at Work), Hamish Stuart (Average White Band, and a veteran of Paul McCartney’s 1989 and 1990s tours and albums), Edgar Winter, and Steve Lukather (Toto). Warren Ham (Kansas, Toto) and Gregg Bissonette (whose resume includes playing with David Lee Roth and Steve Vai, among others, including a stint as Toto’s tour drummer) served as backing musicians, Ham taking stints on sax, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals, and Bissonnette on drums, percussion and backing vocals.

The “human jukebox” format of the All Starrs has the lead vocal passed around among the band members, who perform their best known songs. Starr sang nearly all of the numbers he recorded with The Beatles (save the “White Album” tracks “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Goodnight”). Most impressive was “What Goes On,” from Rubber Soul, sounding a good deal tougher live than it does on record. There were also songs from his solo years: the hits “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph,” a raw, punk-tinged version of “Back Off Boogaloo” and the John Lennon-composed “I’m the Greatest.”

Lukather proved to be the joker in the pack, the one most likely to get Starr to laugh. At one point, when Starr was introducing the next song, Lukather broke into the opening riff of “Day Tripper,” which excited the crowd, until Starr laughingly proclaimed, “We’re not doing that one!” Lukather’s “Rosanna” featured a stellar guitar solo; he also performed “Africa,” and “Hold the Line.”

Edgar Winter soloing on sax.

Winter was in full rock and roll preacher mode, giving the most flamboyant introductions of his fellow band members. He went all out on “Frankenstein,” demonstrating his virtuosity on sax, keyboards (boasting that he was the first musician to think of attaching a strap to a keyboard, so you could walk around while playing it) and percussion, and getting into a “drumming duel” with Bissonette, who delighted the crowd by playing the drum riffs of The Beatles’ “Come Together” and “The End.” “This is a song you’ve heard a million times — but you’ve never heard it like this!” he crowed before the band broke into a rollicking version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” One wonders if Starr, behind his kit during the song, flashed back to the numerous times he played the song on club dates with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and The Beatles.

Ringo Starr stated, “If you don’t know this song, you’re in the wrong room!” then led the audience in a singalong to “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Stuart took the show back to the ’70s and the classic funk attack of AWB’s “Pick Up the Pieces” (featuring some especially nice sax work from Ham) and “Cut the Cake,” numbers that are so in the groove you don’t notice the minimal lyrics. He also performed a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do,” which appeared on the 1974 AWB album — “The other white album,” Stuart joked, in reference to the album’s predominant color. Hay’s “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and especially “Who Can It Be Now” were huge crowd pleasers, even as he joked about his own anonymity. “I just saw someone say ‘Who’s he?’” he joked about the audience, then deadpanning “I’m Colin Hay.

Starr was in a buoyant mood, literally bouncing up and down at some points, and grinning at other band members when playing the drums. He announced the final number by stating, “If you don’t know this song, you’re in the wrong room!” then led the audience in a singalong to “With a Little Help From My Friends.” He left the stage, the other musicians carrying on with a few choruses of “Give Peace a Chance” (oddly Starr didn’t take a final bow with the rest of the group). A terrifically fun show, where the performers appeared to be having even more fun than the audience.



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