It’s starting to feel like a band. A real band.
After 27 years of putting together assorted musicians to play with on the road, Ringo Starr has found a group of guys that clicks. This latest – and longest tenured – incarnation of Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band lands at the INB Performing Arts Center in Spokane on Sunday night.
Joining the legendary former Beatle is guitarist-producer Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey), Steve Lukather (Toto), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Warren Ham (Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John) and Gregg Bissonette (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth). It’s a group that’s played with Starr for more than four years.
“We don’t know what it is. We get to rehearsal and we hit it off. We support each other. That’s the main thing,” Starr said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, where he was busy packing for the next leg of the tour, which is taking the band to the Western U.S., Japan and South Korea. “We do it because we love it. And on those nights when you, the band and the audiences are just together. … You can’t plan it. It’s very beautiful. That’s why we keep doing it – for those nights.”
Starr, who celebrated his 76th birthday in July, really doesn’t need to tour. (In 2015, Forbes – citing data from the Sunday Times of London’s annual Rich List – had Starr tied with Sting for No. 8 on the list of wealthiest U.K. musicians, at a net worth of 180 million pounds.) He does it, he said, because since he was a young man in Liverpool, making music and playing gigs has been his goal.
“That’s what I wanted to do. I was working in a factory. I dreamt of playing drums. I borrowed the money from my grandfather to buy this kit, and I’ve been playing ever since.
“I got a great chance when I was 20 to leave the factory and go, as we like to say, professional. And I’ve been professional ever since. I love to play. My dream keeps coming true every night I play.
“In my case it did end in the biggest band in the land,” he added with a laugh. “And that was great, too.”
Starr, of course, was already an established professional when he joined the Beatles in August 1962, having played with the Liverpool bands Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. It was while performing with the Hurricanes in Hamburg, Germany, that Starr first met the Beatles, when both bands played at the Kaiserkeller in October 1960.
Fond memories of those days are sprinkled throughout Starr’s solo discography. He’s often said he’s writing his autobiography with his music. His latest album, 2015’s “Postcards From Paradise” is peppered with examples.
“Every time I do a record, and if you listen to the last six albums, there’s an homage to Liverpool and Rory,” he said. He pointed to the lead track on “Postcards,” called “Rory and the Hurricanes,” which features the lines, “Next time we went to London town / We didn’t do much hangin’ around / I was with you know who / I played the drums like I always do.” “You know who,” he said, was the Beatles.
(The album’s title track is a “name that tune” of Beatles references, as Starr name-checks “Honey Pie,” “All My Love,” “Eight Days a Week,” “I Saw You Standing There,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “We Can Work It Out” and so on. In one song.)
“So it’s become a thing to do for me that Rory and the Hurricanes will get a song on every CD I do until I don’t,” Starr said. “And I have one I’ve written with Glen Ballard on this new album that’ll be out next year sometime, and it’s all about Johnny Guitar, the guitarist out of Rory and the Hurricanes. It’s called ‘Electric.’”
Seeing Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band in concert can be a nostalgic experience as well. On the last leg of the tour, which wrapped up in July, the setlist featured Starr’s big solo hits “It Don’t Come Easy,” “You’re Sixteen,” and “Photograph,” as well as the Beatles tunes “Act Naturally,” “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” Then there were songs made famous by members of the All Starr Band – Toto’s “Rosanna” and “Africa,” Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va,” Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” among them.
An All Starr Band show, Starr said, is “a lot of fun, a lot of love, and a lot of great songs you’ll all remember.”
He splits time equally between playing drums and being at the front of the stage, he said. “I’m the entertainer for a lot of it,” he said. “I come out and open it up with a few songs, then I’m back to the kit and play all the band numbers. And that’s great because I get a chance to play their songs.
“So I’m drumming away for Todd and Steve Lukather and Gregg Rolie. I’m like a percussionist for (Gregg) Rolie,” he added with a laugh.
For Starr and the other surviving Beatle, Paul McCartney, their shared history looms large, even though the band split in 1970, John Lennon was murdered in 1980 and George Harrison died of cancer in 2001. Starr and McCartney cooperated (along with Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono) in the making of “Eight Days a Week,” a new documentary about the Beatles’ touring life from Ron Howard, which is now streaming on Hulu.
“Someone asked me the other day, if John and George, God bless ’em, were still here, would we go tour like Paul tours, like I tour. I think so,” Starr said. “The four of us had that attitude we really just wanted to play, and by the way we turned into the best band in the land. But really, the playing was very important. … Paul’s still the most melodic bass player out there.
“And I’m a drummer.”
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