I didn't know quite what to expect when I booked my tickets to see Ringo Starr and the All Starr Band live. Ringo's had a tough couple of decades and fuss made over his refusal to sign anything else for fans and comments about Liverpool suggested that he'd become rather curmudgeonly since hitting 70.
What I didn't expect was the figure who bounded onstage tonight, full of boyish enthusiasm, slim and grinning and looking about 25 years younger than his 70 years, buoyed up by (seemingly) unforced glee at his latest tour.
And he was certainly in good company. The All Starr Band consisted of Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Gary Wright, Richard Page (of Mr Mister) and Wally Palmar (The Romantics).
Launching into It Don't Come Easy, Ringo seemed to be having a whale of a time and it was one of those gigs where it's hard to keep the grin off your face and where the enthusiasm of the performers rubs off onto the audience, even if almost every one of us remained glued to our seats, restricting out enthusiastic displays to polite rounds of applause. British reserve apparently seemed to be leading the way, although there was a good bit of banter between Ringo and the audience at some points, as he joked self-depreciatively between songs. Almost uncomfortably at one point, where he obviously thought an off-the-cuff remark about having his bedroom decorated with a picture of a cheering crowd on one wall fell a bit flat and he remarked, "I don't really. I just made that up. I thought it was funny. Apparently not." He looked so momentarily dejected I was surprised no-one jumped on stage to give him a big hug.
But aside from that, Ringo seemed to be having a blast and so were the audience. They may have come for Ringo, but he stepped aside for much of the show, giving it a real mini-festival feel, as other members of the band were given the spotlight and performed songs from their careers. Ringo slipped to the back of the stage, behind his drum kit and it gave the chance for the audience to appreciate quite how much talent was onstage.
Rick Derringer kicked things off with The McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy, probably surprising most of the audience as much as me, who had no clue his career had gone back so far. Edgar Winter tried to get the audience READY TO ROCK, but probably picked the wrong crowd, although his set pieces, Free Ride and the epic, sprawling, monster of a song Frankenstein were instrumental highlights of the evening. Wally Palmar stepped up with a couple of Romantics songs – surprisingly memorable since I didn't recall the name before the gig - Talking In Your Sleep and What I Like About You. Of course, the evening couldn't go by without Gary Wright performing his great hit Dreamweaver, which was appropriately cheesy. And Richard Page impressed performing Mr Mister hits Kyrie and Broken Wings.
But really, we were there to see Ringo, although the other band members provided a hell of a show. Between their spots, Ringo ambled down from behind the drums to perform some solo hits, a couple of tracks from his last album ("I have more copies at home," he commented when the mention of his last album only drew a few ragged cheers from the audience) and a few songs he performed with "that other band." So, as well as It Don't Come Easy, we got treated to some of the covers Ringo did with the Beatles – Honey Don't, Boys, Act Naturally – and some of the material written for him. Disappointingly, no Don't Pass Me By or Octopuss's Garden, but instead storming, crowd pleasing versions of With A Little Help From My Friends and Yellow Submarine – the latter shapelessly cheesy and the audience loved Ringo for it as he brazenly led everyone in a sing along, clearly embrasing its ridiculousness and having unashamed fun doing so. And the audience did too.
The one major complaint was not about performance, but simply the fact there wasn't enough Ringo. He seemed most content sitting behind his drumskins, laughing and joking with the rest of the band from there, even when the microphones were off, and keeping to the background did seem to be motivated by a desire to let his 'supergroup' shine in their own right, but in that case he may have overestimated the audiences enthusiasm for others and underestimated their appetite for seeing him as a front man. At two hours, t would have been nice to hear more Ringo, aside from the Beatles stuff and a couple of solo hits in the shape of Photographs and Back Off Boogaloo. As affable and enthusiastic as he was, it just felt like a shame we didn't get to see more of him and he was stuck, so much of the time, at the back of the stage supporting others.
But maybe it wouldn't be Ringo unless he was letting everyone else take the glory.