When Ringo Starr came to town, the normally staid Segerstrom Hall at Segerstrom Center became a bona fide major rock venue – for one night, anyway.
With his All-Starr Band, the rocker wasn’t just spry for someone age 76 – he was positively youthful, perhaps buoyed by (or responsible for?) the sizzling vibrancy of his bandmates – Steve Lukather, Richard Page and Todd Rundgren (guitar and vocals); Gregg Rolie (organ and vocals); Warren Hamm (sax, piano and percussion); and Gregg Bissonette (drums).
Though Lukather, Rundgren, Page and Rolie were often in the spotlight, the evening showcased everything fans cherish in Ringo – his charming Liverpool accent, disarming personality and genuine enjoyment for his craft, which translated to authentic warmth.
Wearing dark shades and all black (jacket, jeans and a tee-shirt emblazoned with a silver glitter star, a red heart at its center), he treated the crowd of thousands, mostly boomers, as if personal friends visiting him at an intimate nightclub, pointing at various individuals and speaking directly to them.
Ringo headed up half of the evening’s 24 selections, spending much of the time up front with mike in hand and the rest at his upstage center drums, miced for his vocals. For their first number, the rollicking “Matchbox,” Ringo and company were positively on fire.
That was followed by “It Don’t Come Easy,” given a hard-chargin’, full-bodied rock sound, and “What Goes On,” which Ringo introduced as being “the only Beatles song by Lennon, McCartney and Starr,” walked away from his mic, then returned to it to add “and it shoulda been the other way around.”
Along the same lines were his comments about the high-octane “Don’t Pass Me By”: “When I joined The Beatles, I wrote a lot of songs, and we didn’t record any of them – until this one.” Like the All-Starr Band’s performance of “Boys,” it had that distinctive vintage early ’60s Beatles sound.
“Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are so closely associated with Starr, and so universally known and loved, that Ringo turned them into audience singalongs – 3,000 people, from orchestra level to third tier, on their feet, bellowing out the lyrics.
And for a handful of songs – “You’re Sixteen,” “Back Off Boogaloo,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Photograph” and “Act Naturally” – Starr effected a playful, jocular mood, clearly having a great time, a feeling the audience eagerly embraced.
Starr proved extremely generous in doling out stage time to his bandmates, giving Lukather, Rolie, Rundgren and Page three numbers apiece from their former groups, which include Toto and Santana; Hamm added sensational sax playing throughout.
Lukather fronted three of his former band Toto’s hits: “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “Hold The Line.” On each and in most every other song, he contributed sizzling lead guitar work, often in solo passages.
Rundgren was featured in a trio of songs: “Bang the Drum”; “Love Is The Answer,” which he wrote for his band Utopia; and “I Saw The Light,” written for his 1972 album “Something/Anything?”
Before his first number, Rundgren chortled “This is this current group’s fifth year as an act – and if we make it another year, we’ll outlast the Beatles.”
Santana lead singer Rolie handled lead vocals on three of that group’s most popular numbers: “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.” Page, lead singer and bassist for Mr. Mister, headed his own number-one singles “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” plus the 2011 song “You Are Mine” (Page’s lyrics, Ringo’s music).
But this was clearly Ringo’s band, and a night to celebrate all things Ringo Starr. The brief encore of “Give Peace a Chance” had the audience standing and swaying, singing along and flashing peace signs at the stage – a stance that became commonplace throughout what Starr called the entire evening’s “musical magical moments.”