First, let’s state the obvious yet remarkable: Ringo Starr was 79 when “Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band: Live from the Greek Theater” was filmed before an understandably enthusiastic audience in Los Angeles on Sept. 1, 2019. He still sings like Ringo. He still drums like Ringo. He still looks like Ringo. He probably could fit into the same skinny jeans he wore while anchoring the Beatles. And, yes, we still call him Ringo — he’s a first-name-basis kind of guy.
His All Starr bandmates scored hits over the decades after Ringo sang “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’s Garden,” and they look like his contemporaries. When you’re with Ringo, everyone is on common ground. The Beatles hold the loftiest, most mythical spot in rock history. We continue to revere them like no other band, yet Ringo may be our most down-to-earth, democratic rock star.
Meeting Paul McCartney might turn you into a tub of goo a la Chris Farley (hilariously) on “Saturday Night Live,” but Ringo? You’d each say, “Peace and love,” extend your fingers in a “v” and flash knowing smiles. You’d be in the club. It’s a large club, open to all who believe in giving peace a chance and enjoying the communal power of catchy tunes.
The first All Starr Band was assembled in 1989 and featured Joe Walsh (an Eagle who happens to be Ringo’s brother-in-law), Dr. John, Billy Preston, Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band, Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band and drummer Jim Keltner. The three who are still alive — Walsh, Lofgren and Keltner — return in “Live from the Greek Theater” for the all-together-now finale of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” which also brings former All Starrs Edgar Winter and Eric Carmen to the stage.
These aren’t acts you might instinctively group together, yet with Ringo as the glue — as always — everything makes sense.
The featured players in this All Starr Band incarnation are Steve Lukather of Toto, Greg Rolie of Santana, Colin Hay of Men at Work and Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band (and McCartney’s late ’80s/early ’90s band). These aren’t acts you might instinctively group together, yet with Ringo as the glue — as always — everything makes sense. So you find yourself singing along, as those standing at the Greek are doing, to Santana’s first hit from 1969, “Evil Ways,” leading into Toto’s 1982 smash “Rosanna,” the 1974 party funk of AWB’s instrumental chart-topper “Pick up the Pieces” and the Aussie reggae of Men at Work’s “Down Under,” which hit No. 1 in early 1983.
The sparks of recognition keep hitting pleasure centers: Rolie’s organ intro to Santana’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman,” the pounding piano blast of Toto’s “Hold the Line,” that indelible sax hook that opens Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?” (and is played here by Warren Ham). All the while, there’s Ringo in his happy place, pounding away in his drum-kit perch alongside (and raised a bit above) drummer Gregg Bissonette (from David Lee Roth’s band) when he isn’t out front sway-singing. He offers up much of what he sang with the Beatles — including his first recorded composition, “Don’t Pass Me By,” and such covers as opener “Matchbox” (Carl Perkins), “Boys” (the Shirelles) and “Act Naturally” (Buck Owens) — plus solo hits (“It Don’t Come Easy,” “You’re Sixteen,” “Photograph”) and a newish song, “Anthem,” that sounds a familiar theme: “This is an anthem for peace and love.”
Of course, the crowd is on its feet as Ringo leads them in “Yellow Submarine,” because who wouldn’t want to clap-clap along to that one? Leave it to timeless Ringo to deliver a timely reminder of how joyful live music makes us come together.