If you were going to make a mixtape – because, apparently, that’s a thing again – you wouldn’t put Toto with early Beatles with Utopia. If you were putting together a set list for your cover band, you wouldn’t pencil in Woodstock-era Santana with Mr. Mister with solo Ringo Starr.
At the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric on Wednesday night, though, Ringo and his latest All-Starr Band made it work with a wide-ranging set of classic rock.
I’ve written that I’d rather see and hear two hours of Ringo than the set list this admittedly accomplished cover band is performing – and that remains my preference. There’s enough material from the Beatles, his early-1970s solo hits and his run of fine records since the 1990s to make a terrific show.
But a year later, it still doesn’t appear that that’s going to be an option, and the current lineup of All-Starrs – Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather of Toto, Gregg Rolie of Santana and Richard Page of Mr. Mister – brought an energy to their own hits, some stretched into satisfying jams, that breathed new life into familiar music.
The draw, of course, remained Ringo, who bounded onstage for a barrelhouse “Matchbox,” followed by a singalong of “It Don’t Come Easy” and then an All-Starr original: “Island in the Sun,” a thumping reggae from this year’s Postcards From Paradise.
Then he climbed behind the familiar four-piece Ludwig drum kit, surrendering the spotlight to Rundgren, who played “I Saw the Light” and said hello to “Poetown.”
And that’s the format: A few Ringo songs, then each of the All-Starrs leads the band through a song of his own, and then back to Ringo for a few more.
Over the years, this has meant a wide range of material – the band has included, at different times, members of The Who, The Zombies, Cream, The Band, The E Street Band, The Eagles, Supertramp, Squeeze and Men at Work, and solo artists Billy Preston, Edgar Winter, Ian Hunter, Eric Carmen, Dave Edmunds, Billy Squier, Howard Jones and Sheila E.
In the end, lineups come down to personal taste. This lineup is the same that Ringo brought to the Meyerhoff a few years ago, and Wolf Trap last year, performing a similar setlist.
Rolie led the ensemble through an atmospheric “Evil Ways,” and Lukather issued the first in a series of testimonials to Ringo: “If it wasn’t for this gentleman back here, I wouldn’t be playing music in the first place. I think we can all say that.”
Later, from Page: “If you told me when I was a kid trying to learn how to play ‘Day Tripper’ on guitar that I’d be up here playing with one of those guys, I’d have said you were crazy.”
Ringo spent the evening amusing the audience and his bandmates. At one point, he greeted a couple of latecomers to the front row by making a show of looking at his watch, and at another, he told this story about composing “Don’t Pass Me By:”
“When I wrote those immortal words – ‘You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair’ – I did think to myself, ‘Lennon and McCartney, you’d better watch out.' ”
He closed out the evening with a faithful “Photograph,” the hit he co-wrote with George Harrison, the rockabilly “Act Naturally” and his signature song, for the band and his career: “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
The band played him off with John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” – and Ringo disappeared into the night.