For the 11th time, Ringo gives his friends a little help

by Ryan Snyder

Rememberthe days whentwo-minutespots for classicrock compilationalbums wouldrun on MTVthree times everyhour, extollingthe rockingpossibilities tobe realized bysending $24.95to an address in Colorado Springs?There’s no doubt that many succumbedto the vertically scrollingallure of Freedom Rock, PowerRock, or any of the softer anthologiesoffered by the Time-LifeCorporation. Then along came filesharing, effectively crushing thewillingness of anyone to tack on anadditional $5.95 for shipping andhandling. When Ringo Starr broughthis Eleventh All-Starr Band to themagnificent Durham PerformingArts Center on July 11, it seemed as if he was inspired by at least alittle of that sort of As Seen On TV nostalgia.It’s easy to thumb a nose at the list of dinosaurs that Ringo hasassembled for the band’s 2010 turn, especially when he digs deeperand deeper into the fossil record with every incarnation. Edgar Winter,Rick Derringer, Gary Wright, Wally Palmar, and Richard Page;together with veteran session drummer Gregg Bissonette, it’s a groupof rogue frontmen each manning different instrument who togethercould fill their own ASOTV disc. Don’t underestimate the groupbased on the cheese factor, however; this was a perfectly preserved,dynamite group of players.It began with Ringo’s solo hit “It Don’t Come Easy,” as the star ofthe show shuffled back and forth like a teen idol of yesteryear at centerstage and carried into the Beatles cover of Carl Perkins’ “HoneyDon’t.”’It wasn’t until midway through the title track of Ringo’s 2005album Choose Love that he actually picked up a pair of drumsticks,swapping his incomparable matched grip for the traditional grip thathe almost single-handedly de-popularized.And then the real fun started. Ringo introduced the band’s leadguitarist Rick Derringer, whose old band the McCoys held thenumber-one song on the charts in 1965. That song was “Hang OnSloopy,” which Derringer stated temporarily pushed “Yesterday” intothe second spot before launching into the rarely heard third verse.In an otherwise masterfully executed show, Derringer’s minor vocaldrop therein was the only noticeable gaffe, though judging by hisslightly overwrought solo on “Rock ‘N Roll Hoochie Coo,” his guitarskills haven’t diminished one iota.It only made sense for Derringer to introduce the show’s next lead,the muppet-y Edgar Winter, who nailed the high notes of “Free Ride”and rocked as many instruments as he could get his hands on. One ofthose was of course the keytar, which Winter dutifully reminded hepioneered long ago when his explosive instrumental “Frankenstein”came up in the queue.It was about this time that the show genuinely felt as if it weresomething that Ringo had intended as more than merely a novelty.It was a once-in-a-lifetime live collaboration of once-great rock andpop impresarios, all with clear Beatles associations and influences.Palmar’s Romantics could write a hook that seeped into the crevicesof your unconscious as well as anyone, and though “Talking In YourSleep” might not have been on the play list of most before, it surelystayed with many long after.It also proved that many songs banished to Cheeseville still soundjust as engaging and well crafted as they did when they dominatedthe airwaves. Richard Page not only held down the bands tastefullyunderstated bass, his unblemished voice reminded the sold-out crowdthat “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings” are not simply groan-worthykaraoke fodder; they’re intensely beautiful songs when utilized properly.Page sparred with Gary Wright for top vocalist honors of theevening, though the slightest of nods went to Wright for his crystalclear resonance overtop an enrapt audience during the opening linesof “Dream Weaver.” That he showed his rocking side hadn’t erodedduring “Love Is Alive” was the icing.Oh, and we can’t forget Ringo. He sparkled and charmed on “YellowSubmarine” and Rory Storm & the Hurricanes’ “Boys,” and theshow’s conclusion of “With a Little Help From My Friends” was theobvious choice. Though he was clearly the man that thousands cameto see just days after hitting the 70-year milestone, he seemed contentstepping aside to let his compatriots shine, even amidst a constanttorrent of adulation and birthday wishes. Sure, they saw one of themost understated, underrated, and creative drummers of the modernrock and pop era to defer to a professional sideman in Bissonnette,while only providing accents and flourishes. Still, this show thatRingo has created is still one of the most imaginative and engagingevenings in all of the post-Beatle era, something that does come easyfor this working-class kid from Liverpool.