Ringo Starr @ Birmingham Symphony Hall, 20th June 2011

Ringo Starr

If you type RIN into a web search engine, the third predictive option that shows is Ringo Starr. If you do the same with the other three names of that fab four, they are not as high up the list. Admittedly, John, Paul and George are much more common names, but the point is that Mr Starr is still one of the most famous people on the planet. How he came to this position is often sited as him being the luckiest person in the world, rather than by his talent or good looks; although without doubt he fitted perfectly within that four piece band that shook the world. What would have happened had he remained with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes is probably best answered by looking at the fortunes of Pete Best.

Ringo Starr

So bearing in mind who Ringo is, his unquestionable back catalogue with The Beatles and his long list of celebrity friends, you have to ask yourself when Ringo Starr tours with his “All Star Band”, who the hell are those other musicians? If they appeared on the line-up in Never Mind the Buzzcocks, they would never be picked out. Granted they are all qualified musicians, but they could never hope to fill halls as individuals, or really be classed as stars. Luckily they are all announced throughout the night so there is no doubt where they came from, but you can’t help thinking if they were famous enough, they would need no introduction. As it is there is a prize for anyone who knew: Rick Derringer (the McCoys), Edgar Winter (The Edgar Winter Group), Wally Palmer (The Romantics), Richard Page (Mr Mister), and Gary Wright.

Ringo Starr

If anything, I believe this is the evening’s only failure, because the set is made up of each of these musicians singing two of their own songs, with Ringo drumming on those and singing the remaining songs himself either stood at the front of the stage, or from behind his kit. I personally would have liked to have seen Ringo only singing songs he is famous for, or at least have a higher calibre of backing group (like in an earlier incarnation of the band). As it is far too much time of the two hour set is taken up by Edgar Winter’s appalling and almost endless prog rock instrumental ‘Frankenstein’ or Rick Derringer’s cringeworthy five minute guitar solo where he tries to play every note on the fretboard as quickly as possible like a teenager in a guitar shop, or Gary Wright’s ‘Dreamweaver’, which frankly is more famous for being infamous for its place in Wayne’s World.

Ringo StarrRingo Starr

Richard Page of Mr Mister does an admiral job of belting out “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” and if I had wanted to see a Mr Mister revival I could not have been in a better place. However, 1980’s powerpop is something best left in the 80’s and I quickly lost interest in everything but Ringo’s shaking head and that special way he hits a crash cymbal.

There are highlights of course, but these are when Ringo’s nasal tones fill the hall. Unmistakeable and timeless they are, along with classic songs like ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’, at which point the audience is lifted from its collective slumber. It is also a joy to see his swaying head from its place behind the silver sparkle Ludwig drumkit, instantly recognisable and iconic, but a big star replaces the usual two words that used to decorate the bass drum.
The best is saved for last when “Act Naturally” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” are played and it is a true honour to be in the same room as Ringo Starr; it really is. Never could a lyric more suit a man: “What would you do if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out of me?” Internally I am screaming: No, never! Ringo has always been a hero to me as he was never as pretentious as the other Beatles, seemed more self-deprecating and self-effacing and just seemed more down to earth. This is clearly evident in his between song banter, which is lacking in boastful stories about the old days (unlike Gary Wright who shoehorned George Harrison’s name into his introduction to ‘Dreamweaver’).

Ringo Starr

So musically, the night’s proceedings are pretty standard fare, albeit slightly biased to old boy’s rock and losing a lot of the simple beauty of the original recordings in the process. It seems that Mr Derringer’s influence may have permeated into the arrangements, but I honestly do not believe he is of a high enough calibre to do this. We all know that Ringo’s talents shine with a subtle hand, because his honest good intentions, enthusiasm, presence and commitment are enough.

Ringo brings the show to a close with Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’, to a deserved standing ovation. He waves his two fingered double handed peace signs in the air as he leaves the stage and the lights go up with no real encore (as although he left the stage after ‘Friends’, the band didn’t and he returned pretty quickly). Despite there being disappointing parts of the concert, I can’t shake the giddy excitement I have in the pit of my stomach that I have shared a room with Ringo Starr; that really is worth the entrance fee alone. Next time though Mr S, don’t be afraid to keep hold of centre stage, and don’t be so quick to give it up to others with half your talent… but I guess when part of your story is not being the best drummer in The Beatles, it is too easy for that to influence how you portray yourself on stage and force you to shy away from the spotlight. Personally I would have been happy with two hours of just Ringo.

Ringo StarrEdgar Winter

Set List includes:
It Don’t Come Easy
Honey Don’t (Carl Perkins cover)
Choose Love
Hang On Sloopy (The McCoys cover) (Rick Derringer)
Free Ride (Edgar Winter)
Talking in Your Sleep (The Romantics cover) (Wally Palmar)
I Wanna Be Your Man
Dream Weaver (Gary Wright)
Kyrie (Mr. Mister Richard Page)
The Other Side Of Liverpool
Yellow Submarine
Frankenstein (Edgar Winter)
Peace Dream
Back Off Boogaloo
What I Like About You (The Romantics cover) (Wally Palmar)
Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo (Rick Derringer)
Love Is Alive (Gary Wright)
Broken Wings (Mr. Mister Richard Page)
Act Naturally
With a Little Help from My Friends
Give Peace a Chance

Review – Al Neilson
Photos – John Bentley

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