Out to reassert that there will always be artists and fans willing to ignore the freshness dating labels on rock 'n' roll, the lucky Beatle Ringo Starr and a leaner returning cast of senior citizens were, at least on Saturday night, the best cover band/tribute act on or near the Vegas Strip. In this seemingly low-stress touring affair, with incense burning, peace signs flashing and sunglasses, smiles and barbs in abundance onstage, band's express purpose is to deliver blasts from their collective pasts, as nostalgia and novelty often proved hard to differentiate (especially when Ringo had at his own repertoire).
Starr released his 12th studio album, "Vertical Man" (Mercury), last year, but the only song to be heard from it was (not so coincidentally) his own take on "Love Me Do." He affably and adequately offered up such tunes as "Act Naturally," "Photograph" and "Boys" - and as "Boys" was performed, the audience was rewarded with the striking sight of men, all at least 50 (except Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, who's 49), singing "bop, bop, shoo-wop" as guitarist Todd Rundgren shook his multicolored moptop. In fact, the most recent ditty in the set - from the '80s - would be Rundgren's "Bang the Drum All Day," a mindless confection since co-opted for sporting events.
Rundgren got his chance to shine (with a painted Gibson SG reminiscent of the one he once inherited from Eric Clapton) alongside monster bassist Jack Bruce on the Cream numbers "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," a jam that had the pair on their knees by the end. In marked contrast, Bruce was saddled with providing the simplistic bass lines to "Yellow Submarine" and "The No No Song."
Gary Brooker of Procol Harum provided the night's more poignant moments with "A Salty Dog" and "A Whiter Shade of Pale," with utility man Tim Cappello (various saxes, keys, percussion, vocals, bench presses and coach's whistle) ably handling synth and Hammond organ flourishes. Kirke did an admirable job of singing while drumming to songs more recognizably belted out by Paul Rodgers, namely "All Right Now" and "Shooting Star."
While none of the participants is getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on his own, their family-tree connections to various revered groups and songs guaranteed ovations for all throughout the show. Encore of "With a Little Help From My Friends" aptly summed up tour, if not artistic career, of one Richard Starkey.
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band perform Thursday at the Universal Amphitheatre.