Ringo Starr has always gotten by with a little help from his friends, be they Beatles or the musicians — many of them headliners in their own right — who’ve made up his All-Starr bands in the quarter-century since the idea was hatched.
Giving sizable chunks of his concerts over to a rotating cast of players and singers was a canny move for Starr, pointing up his unselfishness and natural affability while abrogating doubts about his shortcomings as a frontman.
At the Fox Theatre on Friday night, Starr’s band included Todd Rundgren and Toto’s Steve Lukather on guitars, Mr. Mister bassist Richard Page, Santana/Journey keyboardist Gregg Rolie, drummer Gregg Bisonette and percussionist/saxophonist Warren Ham. Noting this is the third tour for that lineup, Rundgren enthused, “There’s so much love here we occasionally have to swab the stage.”
As with previous outings, Starr performed material from his solo career as well as songs he’d sung lead on with the Beatles. In between, he retreated to the drums and turned the spotlight over to his guests. Looking incredibly fit at 74, Starr bounded onstage wearing a black suit and T-shirt with a glittery peace symbol. He sang Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” and his own early solo hit “It Don’t Come Easy,” as well as the more recent “Wings.”
Rundgren took the first turn among the band members with “I Saw the Light.” Later, introducing “Bang the Drum All Day,” he located St. Louis scenester Beatle Bob in the crowd and said, “All right, I’ve got an air-puncher for you now, Bob.” With his last song, a soaring take on the soulful “Love Is the Answer,” Rundgren amplified — and maybe even outshined — Starr’s own frequent calls for “peace and love.”
Page performed the Mr. Mister hits “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” and sang a recent acoustic ballad, “You Are Mine.” Lukather, an outstanding instrumentalist but limited singer, invited Page and Ham in to sing the high parts on the Toto hits “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “Hold the Line.”
Though Rolie was a founding member of Journey, his numbers — “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” and “Oye Como Va” — all came from his tenure with Santana. Thanks to Rolie’s organ solos and Lukather’s jaw-dropping guitar leads, they were among the show’s musical highlights. Those songs and quite a few of the other band members’ contributions won standing ovations.
As for Starr himself, he didn’t disappoint. His song introductions were often hokey: “I wish I had my camera, so I could take a photograph of you all,” he said, leading into — what else? — “Photograph.” But it still is a terrific song. And c’mon... how often do you get to sing “Yellow Submarine” along with a Beatle?
The finale was, appropriately, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” It’s more than just a signature song; it’s the watchword by which Starr’s career has been sustained. And deservedly so. Set list
It Don’t Come Easy
I Saw the Light
Bang the Drum All Day
Don’t Pass Me By
Black Magic Woman
You Are Mine
Oye Como Va
Love Is the Answer
I Wanna Be Your Man
Hold the Line
With a Little Help from My Friends
Give Peace a Chance