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Ringo Starr’s semi-famous bandmates upstage him at the Ordway

September 24, 2018

Paul McCartney has the No. 1 album in the nation. Ringo Starr is selling out his concerts throughout North America, including Sundays at the Ordway in St. Paul. Is Beatlemania having another eruption 48 years after the Beatles broke up?

No, Beatlemania never died. It just takes different forms as it grips different generations. Like the family of four in the front row at the Ordway on Sunday in matching homemade T-shirts, with epaulets and Sgt. Peppers-like band-uniform buttons (with giant headphones for the two kids under 10 years old). Or the gray-haired guy with the Fab Four necktie. Or the woman in the third row holding up a toy yellow submarine.

Despite the mania of the fans, Ringo wouldnt let the two-hour concert turn into a Beatlefest. No, this is the 13th incarnation of His All-Starr Band since 1989 and the eighth to visit the Twin Cities and its as much about the other stars as it is about the ringleader. Except hes a Beatle and they, frankly, are B-listers from bands that had hits back in the day.

At 78, Ringo still has hair, humor and a mantra of peace and love (the over/under number on how many times he flashed a peace sign at the Ordway was 21, and you should have bet the over). He proved once again that hes an underrated drummer and an overrated singer. Lets be honest, hes really more of a personality than a vocalist.

But give him credit as bandleader, because he has assembled a tight, well-balanced group that played with spirit and camaraderie. Truth be told, the crowd cheered louder after some songs featuring the singers in the All-Starr Band, aka Ringos Classic-Rock Jukebox, than they did for the Ringo solo and Beatles numbers.

The biggest hits were Men at Works Down Under (1981) featuring the playful singer/guitarist Colin Hay, Santanas Black Magic Woman (70) and Oye Como Va (71) featuring Santana vocalist/organist Gregg Rolie, and Totos Africa (82) featuring Toto guitarist/vocalist Steve Lukather and Hay on the high vocal parts. Lukather also revved up the Santana songs, trying to evoke the great guitar work of Carlos Santana but often playing too fast and showy.

Bassist/singer Graham Gouldman of 10cc was new to the All-Starr Band and offered Things We Do For Love (77) and Im Not in Love (75), which reminded us that hes not Paul McCartney but sure tried to sound like him. Including the little known Dreadlock Holiday, which Gouldman said was a hit everywhere in 78 but America, seemed misguided. Wouldnt it have been more prudent to cover other hits he wrote such as the Yardbirds For Your Love or the Hollies Bus Stop?

It was hard to argue with Ringos song selection, which was eight numbers associated with the Beatles and four from his solo catalog. Sometimes this ensemble which also included drummer Gregg Bissonette and saxophonist Warren Ham was too full-sounding for such Beatles classics as Boys and I Wanna Be Your Man. However, Yellow Submarine was an unsinkable singalong, and With a Little Help from My Friends was a feel-good finale with a taste of Give Peace a Chance added on.

Ringo explained his efforts as a songwriter, sharing only one writing credit with Lennon and McCartney, 1965s What Goes On, a countryish ditty that was forgettable on Sunday. Anthem, a 2012 Ringo composition about seeking an anthem about peace and love, sounded like a chorus still looking for verses.

More convincing was 1973s Photograph, Ringos first No. 1 solo hit, which brought people to their feet (without their cellphone cameras) as he sang about growing old and gray together, a perfect and timeless snapshot of Ringo as he still appeals for peace and love for all generations of Beatlemaniacs including those to come.

jon.bream@startribune.com

612-673-1719

Twitter: @jonbream

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