Out to reassert for the fifth time in ten years that there will always be artists and fans alike unabashedly willing to ignore the freshness dating labels on rock 'n' roll, the lucky Beatle Ringo Starr and a leaner returning cast of senior citizens of the genre were, at least on this night, the best cover band/tribute act on or near the Vegas Strip.
A seemingly low-stress touring affair, with Nag Champa burning, peace signs flashing and sunglasses, casual attire, smiles and barbs in abundance onstage, assembled band's express purpose remains to deliver blasts from their collective pasts, where nostalgia and novelty are often hard to differentiate (especially when Ringo has at his own repertoire). Starr released his 12th studio album "Vertical Man" (Mercury) recently, but the only song to be heard from it would be - not so coincidentally enough - his own take on "Love Me Do." He affably and adequately offered up such tunes as "Act Naturally," "Photograph" and "Boys" - the latter of which provided the striking sight of seeing men, all having hit at least the age of 50 (except Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, who's 49), singing "bop, bop, shoo-wop" while guitarist Todd Rundgren shook his own multi-colored 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 that only serves to undermine his already underappreciated musical contributions.
His chance to shine (with a painted Gibson SG reminiscent of the one he once inherited from Eric Clapton) would be alongside monster bassist Jack Bruce on the Cream numbers "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," a jam which had the pair on their knees by the end. In marked contrast, Bruce was saddled with providing the simplistic basslines 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 recognizedly belted out by Paul Rodgers, namely "All Right Now" and "Shooting Star."
While none of the participants is getting into the Rock 'n' 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 sums up tour, if not artistic career, of one Richard Starkey.
Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band perform at the Universal Amphitheatre Thursday.