Review: Ringo Starr

(Above: The run from “Don’t Pass Me By,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” was one of the strongest parts of Ringo Starr’s long overdue return to Kansas City in October, 2014.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

The last time both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr both performed in Kansas City in the same year they were onstage together at Municipal Stadium.

The Fab Four’s drummer gave his first performance in the area since 1992 on Saturday night, only three months after McCartney’s concert at the Sprint Center.

Starlight Theater wasn’t quite full, but judging from the crowd’s reaction to “Yellow Submarine” and “With A Little Help from My Friends” many people had waited a long time for this moment.

Several members of Ringo’s All-Starr band were also making belated returns. Bass player Richard Page congratulated the Royals for their playoff success and noted that last time he played Kansas City his band Mr. Mister was opening for Tina Turner, and the Royals had just won the World Series. Guitarist Steve Lukather said he couldn’t remember the last time he was here.

ringoNow in its 25th year and 13th iteration, the All-Starr Band works as a round-robin jukebox with each musician taking the spotlight, then introducing the next band member up. Guitarist Todd Rundgren was the biggest name on the bill aside from the headliner. While the other names may not have been as familiar, the songs they helped take to the top of the charts – “Rosanna,” “Evil Ways,” “Broken Wings” – definitely were.

The seven-piece band had the most opportunity to stretch out and show off on the Santana numbers – “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va” and especially “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” – lead by organist Gregg Rolie, a founding member of the Santana band. Lukather handled lead guitar duties for most of the night, but seem to save his best solos for those songs. Surprisingly, the band also jammed over a slowed-down Bo Diddley beat during Toto’s “Roseanna.” Rundgren’s “Bang on the Drum” incorporated a bit of “Low Rider” during Page’s bass solo.

The only unfamiliar song in the two-hour set was Page’s “You Are Mine.” Rundgren’s amazing guitar arrangement for the ballad showed why he has been an influential and in-demand producer for several decades.

As expected, the Beatles material and early Starr solo singles drew the biggest response. Starr opened and closed the set with a trio of songs and peppered another five in between. His contribution to “The Beatles” album (known as “The White Album”), “Don’t Pass Me By” was a fun surprise. Lukather, Rundgren and Page were clearly having a ball playing their hero’s songs. All three huddled together, sharing one mic on the choruses of “Boys” and “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

The night closed with the introduction of Billy Shears and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” As the song was winding down, the band jumped into John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” a fitting tribute to the man who has made peace and love his motto.

Setlist: Matchbox, It Don’t Come Easy, Wings, I Saw the Light, Evil Ways, Rosanna, Kyrie, Bang the Drum All Day, Boys, Don’t Pass Me By, Yellow Submarine, Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, Honey Don’t, Anthem, You Are Mine, Africa, Oye Como Va, Love is the Answer, I Wanna Be Your Man, Broken Wings, Hold the Line, Photograph, Act Naturally, With a Little Help from My Friends > Give Peace a Chance.

Keep reading:

Beatles’ cash grab redefines “Money for Nothing”

(Above: Generations later, Paul’s message still rings out: “You Never Give Me Your Money.”)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Hold tight to your pocketbooks; 9/9/9, the inverted day of the Beast draws neigh.

As any Beatle fan will tell you, Aug. 9 is not only the day Beatles edition of Rock Band lands in stores, but when the remastered Beatles albums will finally be released. On CD, that is, not to iTunes.

That information has been second only to anything related to Michael Jackson or Jack White in the online news hemisphere. The buried story, however, is that the Beatles trail only KISS in their devotion to part fans from their money.

Earlier this week, Paul and Ringo teased the public with their “Box of Vision,” an LP-sized storage container-cum-book for the upcoming remasters. The $90 artifact contains full-size replicas of all the original LP artwork, spiffy new sleeves to house the disc and a “Catalography” guidebook. Inventing new words doesn’t make this a better value.

Basically what you get with this set is a guidebook of discography information readily accessed online, blow-ups of all the artwork that will accompany the CDs and a mega-expensive flip-book. To top off the insult, the flip-book contains slots not only for the traditional catalog (i.e. “Please Please Me” through “Let It Be”) but posthumous releases like “Live at the BBC,” “Love,” and the “Anthology” series. That’s fine, but why are there spaces designated for the red and blue albums and “1” collection? That material is already presented throughout the rest of the catalog.

It’s easy to be cynical and say this move is designed to rankle completes and make them buy redundant collections. It’s easy because even a quick glance at the Beatles online store will jade the most intensely optimistic fans.

When the 40th anniversary of the White Album hit last summer, the Beatles did not release the long hoped-for remastered edition. They offered a $530 white pen. Last year also marked the 40th anniversary of the “Yellow Submarine” film, which one could commemorate with a $200 9-inch figurine or a $65 Yellow Submarine “musical globe with Nowhere Man base.” (I wonder who decided they could get more for a Nowhere Man base over a Blue Meanie base.) Oh, and don’t forget to get a jump start on the 45th anniversary of “Help” buy grabbing the $121 deluxe edition DVD with a reproduction of the script and 60-page book with rarely seen photos.

Official band stores are rarely a bargain, but asking $33 for “Live at the BBC,” $30 for the red and blue albums and $35 for the “Anthology” entries is insulting, especially since all these items may be found on Amazon for about $10 (some are significantly cheaper). You can find a used version of the “Help” deluxe edition for $25 there, too.

The Beatles have a big and diverse enough fan base that more than a few of their admirers can afford to spend extravagantly. But shouldn’t they be getting more bang for their buck than $1,000 album cover lithograph collection?  (I wonder if there’s a connection between these prints and what appears in the Box of Vision.) Is a Beatles edition of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit really worth double the price ($40)?

Instead of wasting fans’ time and money with worthless trinkets, the band giving the fans what they want. The remastered CDs would have meant something if they appeared six or seven years ago when the upgraded Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones catalogs were introduced. And instead of hoarding the non-album and alternate cuts until the Past Masters and Anthology releases, they could have been sprinkled on the intended albums, creating a sense of context.

Ironically, by trying to dictate the conversation and sell overpriced novelties, Paul and Ringo have inadvertently left piles of cash on the table. Unable to find legitimate remasters, the “purple chick” bootlegs appeared. Unable to legally download the catalog, torrents and illegal MP3s proliferated the Web.

If Paul and Ringo really wanted to create a stir and control the game, they would mine the Apple vaults and create something as innovative, comprehensive and entertaining as Neil Young’s “Archives” box set. Instead, the pair end up looking as backwards and out-of-touch as all the bands that tried to keep up them back in the ‘60s.