Going out to see a Beatle is a bit unfathomable until he’s standing right in front of you. But things started getting real before Ringo Starr even took the stage on Tuesday, thanks to a whispered tidbit from the adjacent ticket-holder. “You’re sitting next to original Apple Scruffs,” said Donna, pointing out some of the lionized Beatles allies in the center of the row, two of them named Helaine and Kathy. The devoted fans who were a fixture outside Apple Corps and Abbey Road Studios in the late ‘60s had stayed faithful through ‘22, still showing up for Ringo during his three-night run at NYC’s Beacon Theatre. That’s almost as heart-melting as Ringo still showing up for all of us. He’s turning 82 soon, unbelievably, so he doesn’t have to tour so much at this point, or even at all. He could very comfortably retire, but he’s clearly in love with performing. So here he is, generously ensuring us next-gen digital Scruffs get a chance to see him too.
Many attendees had been holding their tickets for this particular show for more than two years, and the star alluded to this in his early greeting. After opening an upbeat cut of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” Ringo said, “Thank you, thank you! Very kind. Very loving. Very peace and loving. I want to thank you all for coming out tonight. It’s a crazy world we live in. Four tours we had to cancel, and now we’re in this one. This is our sixth night I think, so I’m glad to be back! And I’m glad all you guys and girls came out to see us. New Yoooork, baby!” One of Ringo’s finest skills resurfaced frequently: his ability to rapidly sweep the room and connect with everyone, even from behind his tinted shades. It’s utterly insane how Ringo has not visibly aged and continues to rock with so much limitless energy. Those broccoli emojis in his tweets may be a subtle hint for attaining eternal youth, given how fit he looks right now. His Love Rocks NYC tee was tucked into joggers as he raced between his elevated drum set and his frontman duties below, depending on the song.
The ingenuity of this All Starr format, circa ‘89, is even clearer when you get to witness Ringo really having a blast. A total fab-four-fest would easily please, but it’s a jukebox of unexpected hits from his shifting supergroup – currently featuring Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart, Edgar Winter (out with Covid on Tuesday, sadly), Gregg Bissonette, Steve Lukather, and Warren Ham. Ringo’s bold-yet-chill drumming style was creatively applied to their bands’ classics, and his double-drummer moments with Bissonette were an epic thrill. It’s as if he once strategized, “How can I throw a party vs. put on a show?” and the outcome feels surreally intimate – like a living room jam session just broke out among some famous house guests. With Colin Hay in the lineup, we got the Men at Work grooves: “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now?” From Steve Lukather’s past came three Toto songs: “Rosanna,” “Africa,” and “Hold the Line.” Between all that sax-filled action, Hamish Stuart mixed in some Average White Band: “Pick Up the Pieces,” “Cut the Cake,” and “Work to Do” (originally by The Isley Brothers). Of course, we got plenty of solo Starr goodness as well, including “It Don’t Come Easy,” “I’m the Greatest,” a super-peppy “Back Off Boogaloo,” and a vivifying “Photograph,” before which he said, “I wish I had a big camera so I could take a photograph of all of you.” Ringo also took that time to praise everyone’s hand signals. “Love those peace and loves. Hey, yeah, I see you. Hello, you. Well you know, it’s that time again. Every time, I light up the audience. I’d light the audience up for the whole gig, personally, but we had complaints from some of the audience,” he deadpanned, ready to make a getaway if he got too mischievous. “I’ll say anything. I don’t care. I’ve got my car.”
The encoreless 21-song set was so much fun that it flew by too quickly. Steve Lukather said pointedly, “Raise your hands and welcome Doctor Ringo Starr,” since the Beatle just received an honorary degree from Berklee College of Music on Thursday. Some hilarious teases ensued when Ringo said Lukather could pick the next one, causing a trio of tempting intros. Ringo wryly rejected “Please Please Me” (“Not doing that one”), “Blackbird,” and “Day Tripper” as the crowd flipped and giggled. Of course, this iconic rocker has the creative license to do whatever he wants, and no one would blame him for wanting to keep things fresh. So it was all the more surprising to end up spoiled with Beatles stuff: “What Goes On” (“The only song the three of us wrote,” Ringo said of Lennon & McCartney), “Yellow Submarine” (the reward after the aforementioned teasing), a tranquilizing “Octopus’s Garden,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” (dedicated to the young girls in the audience: “This is for you, and all the other girls”), “Act Naturally” (their Johnny Russell cover), and “With a Little Help From My Friends” (with a “Give Peace a Chance” tag).
“Now I just remembered that there was a young lady in a bridal gown somewhere,” said Ringo, smiling as spotlights found the happy couple. “Is that you, baby? And did you just get married? And there’s the beautiful guy next to you. Well, I want to congratulate you. And I wonder if you’ve had your cake and everything, but you come to a gig! Well, we love you for coming; thank you!” He also teased NYC about our frighteningly gruff cheers. “I love that. RINGO,” Starr growled darkly. “I’m so used to RingOh! RingOh!” he mimicked in a high-pitched voice. “Then in New York… RINGO,” he snarled, cracking up the packed venue. The hard-dancing audience – who kept creating a wave as they mirrored Ringo’s peace-sign hands – appeared both starstruck and soothed by his ebullient performance. In the affable presence of Sir Richard Starkey, the Beacon became a safe little hideaway, like his octopus’s garden and that submarine where every one of us has all we need. “I’m having a good time,” Ringo divulged sincerely. “Are you having a good time? That’s what it’s all about.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley