I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, because I’ve never known life without the music of the Beatles. Their music was already famous when I arrived on this earth, and by the looks of things, it will still be famous when I leave it. What a glorious thing!
However, I was never lucky enough to actually see the Beatles as they broke up long before my concert-going career had begun, but I have seen two Beatles. This weekend, I got to see one of those Beatles again. Ringo Starr kicked off the Syracuse summer concert season, bringing his All-Starr band to the new Lakeside Amphitheater at the New York State Fairgrounds.
When I first heard about Ringo’s All-Starr band years ago, it seemed a bit like a gimmick. Would I really want to see the famous Beatles’ Drummer with a patchwork lineup of musicians? After seeing them in concert several years ago, the answer was and has continued to be a resounding “yes.”
Aside from the most obvious and compelling reason of seeing an honest to goodness Beatle in concert, Ringo’s All-Starr band is a collection of top notch performers from varying genres and eras, that play together as if they’ve never been in a band with anybody else, but they have. And the fact that they have makes this concert a greatest hits of greatest hits. This year’s lineup was made up of Steve Lukather of Toto, Todd Rundgren of Utopia, Richard Page of Mr. Mister, and Gregg Rolie of Santana…with outstanding support from Warren Ham on sax and vocals, and Gregg Bissonnette on drums. What this group of musicians is able to accomplish is nothing short of spectacular. Somehow they manage to put on five mini concerts all adding up to one evening of outstanding music.
Ringo kicked off the evening with “Matchbox” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” From there, it was a round robin of hits, with each musician featured as they covered a hit from the band that made them famous …but what is even more impressive, is how the other musicians fill in the gaps from each of the original bands. As Gregg Rolie brought us Santana’s “Black Magic Woman,” Steve Lukather covered the famous Santana guitar leads to perfection. Richard Page and Warren Ham both provided outstanding vocals to bring us the full Toto sound as Steve Lukather performed the hits Rosanna, Africa, and Hold the Line. Page’s vocals soared on Mr. Mister hits “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” and brought a hush to the crowd as he performed a moving original. The entire lineup provided the energy and musical madness to match the style of Todd Rundgren as he sang hits “Bang the Drum All Day” and “Love Is the Answer.” All of these songs mixed in with Ringo performing hits like “Photograph” and “It Don’t Come Easy” and covering Beatles’ classics “Yellow Submarine” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
The entire evening was a musical and emotional high as the crowd witnessed a group of expert musicians sharing the stage, sharing the spotlight, and sharing hits from each other’s songbook, with Ringo Starr pulling it all together with his trademark peace signs, witty sense of humor, and stories of the Beatles. The evening came to an end with a full band rendition of “Give Peace A Chance.” I don’t think there could have been a more enjoyable or more fitting band to kick off the start of upstate New York’s summer concert series.