Ringo Starr

Review by Peter Watrous (New York Times) (Switch to

Celebrity is a strange zone to wander into; it causes all sorts of blindness and behavior that verges on cultishness. So it was at Ringo Starr's performance on Wednesday night at the Beacon Theater, where the presence of someone who so changed international culture at first seemed overwhelming. His place in history and his charisma, at least for a while, obviated the moments of musical gracelessness and the forced sense of good times that rippled through the music. The audience readily gave Mr. Starr and the band standing ovations, which, in the exercise of nostalgia, seemed as much a homage to its own lost youth as to the performers.

Mr. Starr occasionally pulls together groups to tour that include minor rock celebrities, and the band that performed at the Beacon included the guitarist Todd Rundgren, a genuine American rock original; Jack Bruce, the bassist for Cream; the keyboardist Gary Brooker from the group Procol Harum, and Simon Kirke, the drummer of the band Free. That lineup guarantees a series of international hits, and combined with Mr. Starr's own handful of tunes it fills up two hours or so of a concert.

So he and the band galloped through hits and not-so hits, mostly with a sense of humor. Mr. Starr radiates quickness and self-deprecation. He played at being a rock star, and he poked fun at band members and people in the audience. When a woman came to the lip of the stage to throw her bra at Mr. Starr, he said: "I'm not Tom Jones, you know? I need something more substantial than that. That's for Gary."

Occasionally the music broke through the need to throw a party, and on Cream's "White Room," Mr. Bruce, who mostly looked as if he were facing a day of root canal work, soloed through the noise of Mr. Rundgren's guitar improvisations. Mr. Bruce, his control of phrasing steady, let fly a series of notes that in the midst of so much effluvia sounded as if John Coltrane had jumped up on stage.

To be sure, some of this had its charm: Mr. Rundgren brought out a timbale and played "Bang the Drum." Its sentiments, that banging a drum is what the singer wants to do all day instead of work, pretty much summed up the night.

Mr. Starr sang "Photograph" and some Beatles tunes, including "Love Me Do" and "Yellow Submarine." He sang "No No" and "I'm The Greatest" and "I Wanna Be Your Man," and his shadow version of the originals went straight back to a time and place that exists only in memories, a place where being young seemed less complicated and filled with so much promise.

Other reviews for Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band
2/17/1999 - Beacon Theater - New York, New York

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