Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band lived up to expectations Tuesday night as they performed for almost two hours without intermission in Blaisdell Arena. It was in all respects a perfect evening of classic rock — and the first time Ringo Starr has performed in Hawaii.
Starr was a genial and engaging host. He came out on stage dressed in black and opened the evening with “Matchbox,” “It Don’t Come Easy” and “What Goes On.” He then climbed up behind the big Ludwig drum kit deployed on a pedestal at the back of the stage. Starr looked perfectly content “just” playing drums — even when he was backing other band members and playing their hits.
His command of the stage as a seasoned entertainer added pizzazz when he came down from the drums to sing with the front four — Gregg Rolie (Santana/Journey), Steve Lukather (Toto), Richard Page (Mr. Mister) and Todd Rundgren — or to receive a lei.
The set list was almost split equally between Starr’s signature songs and the hits of the band members. Songs from Starr’s years with the Beatles included “Boys,” “Yellow Submarine,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Act Naturally” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Almost every song — Starr’s, certainly — was instantly recognized. Several quickly became sing-alongs. However, Starr may have confused at least a few people in the crowd when he introduced one of his Beatles hits with a reference to “the group I used to play with — Rory Storm & The Hurricanes.” Those who know that Starr left the Hurricanes in 1962 to join the Beatles appreciated the reference.
There was no question that Ringo was the star of the evening. Several of the All-Starrs talked about the honor of working with him; one referred to him as “the Boss.” On the other hand, it was also clear from the early on that each member of the All-Starr Band had earned the right to be there with him.
Even the least of them in terms of “name credentials” — that would be drummer Gregg Bissonette — turned in a solid “all-star” performance. Bissonette rocked the arena with a lengthy solo on “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” and deserved every second he had in the spotlight.
And, yes, after four years together, the double-drummer arrangements as Starr and Bissonette played together were marvelous.
Lukather did an excellent job recreating the iconic Carlos Santana guitar lines when Rolie was featured on “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va.” A delightful “stop the show moment” came when Lukather and Rolie were playing another Santana classic, “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen.” Lukather walked over to Rolie’s keyboards and sat down next to him, and Rolie reached over the neck of Lukather’s guitar to “help” him play. Lukather then returned the favor by hitting some of Rolie’s organ keys.
Lukather got his well-deserved time as the featured vocalist when he lead the All-Starrs on three of Toto hits: “Rosanna,” “Africa” and “Hold the Line.” The latter was one of the more powerful songs of the show.
Kauai resident Rundgren played guitar for most of the evening but switched to a pair of drums to lead the crowd in spirited rendition of his 1983 hit, “Bang the Drum All Day.” Rundgren was featured earlier in the night on “I Saw The Light” and may have had “enlightenment” in mind when he told the crowd “All we need to do is get recreational pot on the ballot.”
Page added the haunting sound of his group, Mr. Mister, as the lead vocalist on “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings.” Both were exquisite.
And, All-Starr Band member Warren Ham, a veteran of several classic rock groups, was all over the stage playing an assortment of instruments and adding to the vocals. Ham’s sax work on “Africa” was outstanding.
Peace is clearly a priority for Starr these days. He wore a “peace sign” T-shirt, flashed the universally recognized “peace sign” repeatedly during the concert, and closed the evening with a serious message: “Peace and love! Peace and love is the only way!”
Ringo then left the stage for a moment before coming back to join the All-Starrs on “Give Peace A Chance,” an anthem penned by his former Beatles bandmate, the late John Lennon.