It's the 50th anniversary year of The Beatles bringing Beatlemania to America with their performances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the love was still there, although with a lot less screaming, when Beatles drummer Ringo Starr played at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday night.
Ringo was pretty spry for a 74-year-old, and it was definitely fun to hear him sing the songs that he sang back in the day with The Beatles, namely the covers "Matchbox," "Boys," "Honey Don't" and "Act Naturally," the John Lennon/Paul McCartney songs "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Yellow Submarine" and "With a Little Help from My Friends," and Ringo's first recorded composition, "Don't Pass Me By," from the White Album. Sadly, Ringo's "Octopus's Garden" wasn't on the program.
He also sang his great early solo hits "It Don't Come Easy" and "Photograph," plus "Wings" and "Anthem" from his latest solo album, Ringo 2012.
Ringo was in a playful mood, joking several times with the audience.
Early on he said, "Everybody told me about this venue, and they were right. They said, 'It's really beautiful but a lot of people come late.'" Later when he introduced "Boys," he joked, "We're gonna do another one for you now that I used to do with that other band I used to be in. That's right, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes." And before "Yellow Submarine," he quipped, "I promise you this: You know the words to this song. 'Cause if you don't know the words to this song you are in the wrong venue, and you're probably waiting for Led Zeppelin." The band then started playing "Stairway to Heaven" before screeching to a halt and changing to the beloved Beatles song.
Ringo wasn't the only one who cracked up the audience. When Rundgren introduced one of his songs, he said, "You're probably a bit more cultured than most of our audiences. Therefore, we've made a slight change in the program. We're going to perform Igor Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' in its entirety." Actually, it was the don't-wanna-work anthem "Bang the Drum All Day." Not to be outdone, Ringo claimed that "Todd's still high from the '70s." Rundgren, who it must be noted is "A True Star" (and also "A Wizard"), also performed "I Saw the Light" and "Love is the Answer."
Rolie revisited his early days as a member of Santana with the familiar organ sounds and vocals of "Evil Ways," "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" and "Oye Como Va." Guitarist Lukather contributed some nice Carlos Santana-esque guitar stylings to these songs, with a bit more shredding.
In fact, throughout the evening, Lukather's versatility showed why he is one of the all-time great session guitarists. For example, he made his electric guitar sound like a pedal steel during Page's new song, "You Are Mine." In Toto mode, he led the All Starr Band through the hits "Rosanna," "Africa" and "Hold the Line," songs he dedicated to Toto bandmate David Paich. who has local connections and was apparently in the audience. For "Hold the Line," the crowd pushed up to the front of the stage, where they stayed for the rest of the show.
In addition to the new song, Page revisited the Mr. Mister classics "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings," and it must be said that his voice has held up the best of the bunch, with an honorable mention to Rolie. Continuing the playful banter, when Lukather noted that Page bears a "striking resemblance to Bruce Jenner, pre-op," Page returned the "compliment" by calling Lukather "Beetlejuice."
Fittingly, the highlight of the show was Starr singing "With a Little Help from My Friends." With friends like these guys, how could you go wrong? This song was followed by Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," for which an unintroduced mystery singer — the post-show consensus is that it was Keith Allison — joined in.
Yep, Ringo still gets by, and then some, with a little help from his friends.
Matchbox (Carl Perkins/Beatles song)
It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr song)
Wings (Ringo Starr song)
I Saw the Light (Todd Rundgren song)
Evil Ways (Santana song)
Rosanna (Toto song)
Kyrie (Mr. Mister song)
Bang the Drum All Day (Todd Rundgren song)
Boys (The Shirelles/Beatles song)
Don't Pass Me By (Beatles song)
Yellow Submarine (Beatles song)
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen (Santana song)
Honey Don't (Carl Perkins/Beatles song)
Anthem (Ringo Starr song)
You Are Mine (new Richard Page song)
Africa (Toto song) Oye Como Va (Santana song)
Love Is the Answer (Utopia song)
I Wanna Be Your Man (Beatles song)
Broken Wings (Mr. Mister song)
Hold the Line (Toto song)
Photograph (Ringo Starr song)
Act Naturally (Buck Owens/Beatles song)
With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles song)
Give Peace a Chance (John Lennon song)
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.