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Ringo's new tour

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Brett Pasternack

Jul 30, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/30/95
Remember back in the mid-80's when it seemed like we would never see a
Beatle hit the road again? It had been several years since Paul's abortive
final tour with Wings, and he was showing no signs of returning to the
stage for anything more than a brief appearance at a charity show; John's
death and Paul's own arrest in Japan had seemed to put an end to that.
George and Ringo seemed certain to never tour. For someone like me, who had
missed the 70's shows (I was only 9 when Wings Over America rolled
through), it seemed hopeless.

At that time, I couldn't possibly have imagined that I would ever be as
blase about a concert by a Beatle as I was when I saw Ringo and his newest
All-Starr Band earlier this month at the Garden State Arts Center. But
while having seen multiple shows on Ringo's two prior tours (plus six Macca
shows, and George's bit at Bobfest) no doubt lessened the impact of seeing
Ringo on stage substantially, I still think there are objective and
important reasons why this show was not up to snuff.

The bottom line is this: this was not the right band for Ringo. This is
basically a classic rock, hard-edged lineup. They are fine for what they
are; they should have ditched Ringo, gotten Peter Criss or somebody
instead, called themselves "John Entwistle's Road Warriors" or something
like that, and toured the country with a show that wasn't interrupted by
more pop- and country-flavored material all the time. As it was, songs like
"Honey Don't" seemed totally out of place here. More importantly, this band
just couldn't play Ringo's material well. I mean, come on--*TWO* guitar
solos in "Boys"?! Give me a break!

The other big problem with the show was that Ringo did not perform anything
at all that was new. Indeed, apart from "Don't Go Where The Road Don't Go",
from Ringo's 1992 album and tour, the set list in terms of Ringo's numbers
was *exactly* identical to that on Ringo's 1989 tour, right down to the
fact that "Back Off Boogaloo" was included in some of the early shows but
dropped before it reached my neck of the woods.

These two factors ask each other worse, because this set list made a lot
more sense for the 1989 band. Ringo *could* have found material that woul
have fit this band a lot better. For example, "Matchbox" would have made a
great deal more sense than "Honey Don't". From Ringo's solo career, the
hits "Oh My My" and "Goodnight Vienna" would have sounded good, and
choosing a lesser-known rocker like "After All These Years", "Hard Times",
or "Snookeroo" would have been perfect. As it is, "Don't Go Where The Road
Don't Go" was the only real rocker that Ringo did; it sounded fantastic,
with a better arrangement than the 1992 version, and was the one song that
made me feel that the show was really worth the substantial ticket price.
On the other hand, songs like "Photograph" and "No No Song" came off as
limp and even dull in the hands of these musicians.

As for the numbers done by the other All-Starrs, there were some nice
moments, but for various reasons, most of them didn't really excite me. I
was certainly impressed by Mark Farner's considerable vocal skills, but
Grand Funk just isn't a band that means all that much to me, even if I did
like "The Loco-motion" when I was 7 (I'll take Little Eva's version today,
thank you very much). Having already seen Felix (who sounded great) and
John (who didn't) with their original bands--albeit each minus one
member--it was hard to get really excited about their performances here,
even if Zak did come as close as any drummer I've heard to filling Keith
Moon's considerable shoes on Who material. Similarly, I've seen Billy often
enough--on the 1989 tour and elsewhere--that hearing him do his two big
hits has lost some of its thrill. The biggest problem, however, was Randy
Bachman, who, to be frank, just can't sing. Keep in mind that it was Burton
Cummings doing the leads on those Guess Who classics, and CF Turner doing
the same on the BTO stuff. At least the later songs are not very demanding
vocally, and Randy handled them somewhat competently, although personally I
don't think much of either song. On "No Sugar Tonight", however, I thought
he sounded horrible on a song that Burton Cummings did great things with. I
know Bachman wrote it, but it still seemed totally wrong for him, almost as
if Ringo tried to do "I'm Down". On a more positive note, it was great to
have Mark Rivera in the band, although he didn't have the freedom to have
fun that he gets at Billy Joel shows. If there's ever a Fab Three concert,
he should be in it. (Special gold star trivia question: what other
Beatle-related concert tour did Rivera play on? And, no, I'm not counting
any of the Billy Joel tours, even the one with Elton John, as being

Still, there was a core here of a decent show--just a show that I myself
wouldn't be particularly interested in. As I said, throw Peter Criss in
there (he could probebly handle "Rock and Roll All Nite" pretty well, and
there were very prominent drums on it anyway; and he did do the original
lead vocals on "Beth" and "Hard Luck Woman") and add in a few extra numbers
such as "We're an American Band" and "Heaven and Hell", and you've got a
fine tour for the listeners of classic rock stations. I wouldn't go, but
many of the people at this show would have loved it--the ones who gave "My
Wife" and "Takin' Care of Business" a more raucous reception that any of
Ring's material. It seemed strangely fitting that the final bows of the
night were taken by Bachman, Entwistle, and Farner, with Ringo nowhere in
sight. Meanwhile, Ringo could have been doing something much more suited to
his talents.

As far as I'm concerned, I'd prefer that to be something entirely different
from the All-Starr concept, preferably with some of the musicians from the
recording of Ringo's most recent album, "Time Takes Time". But even
assuming that this is not an option, things could have been a lot better.
In the next post, my suggestions for what the All-Starr band could and
should be.

Anyone bothered by Ringo's commercial for Pizza Hut will be really
disturbed by the level of the involvement of Discover, the credit card
company, in this tour. It's already been posted that Ringo designed a
credit card for them; the drawing on the card was used as the backdrop for
the stage, and workers were offering a free Ringo CD (a specially-made
sampler consisting of tracks from the two All-Starr live albums) to anyone
who signed up for the card at the show. Furthermore, a shill for the credit
card appeared on stage, before the show and between the opening act and the
main set, touting the credit card and even giving away a Ringo tour jacket.
This all brought down Ringo's image in a much more serious way than his TV
spots, although I would argue that having Ringo marginalized by other
musicians at his own concert is worse for Ringo's image.

One more curious note. One of the T-shirts being sold at the concert had a
list of songs associated with the performers (some of which were not in the
concert). One of the titles was "Deep Inside My Heart". Now the only song I
can find with that title was a hit for Randy Meisner, formerly of the
Eagles and Poco. I know there were reports of Nick Lowe playing bass on the
tour before John Entwhistle was recruited--is it possible that Meisner was
in the band at one point? And that the people who made the T-shirts failed
to take that song out of the listing when the change was made? Meisner (who
sang lead on "Take It To the Limit" and had several solo hits) would
probably fit Ringo better than Entwhistle did, even if he isn't as talented
overall, and I love the idea that Meisner would finally replace Timothy B.
Schmidt in a band! (Schmidt took Meisner's spot when Meisner left Poco and
again when he left the Eagles.)

... I can't get used to living here, 'cause my heart is broke...

* Wave Rider 1.20 [NR] *

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