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In our modern age, hyperbole runs rampant. Everyone is a genius. Everyone is brilliant. Everyone is an all-star.
But just like Tuesday's baseball All-Star Game showcased the best of the best, the same could be said of Wednesday's concert featuring Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band.
At a sweaty Usana Amphitheatre, Starr and his six sidemen not only paid loving tribute to Starr's songs with The Beatles and during his solo career. But the crack band of star musicians elevated the rest of the songs that have appeared on dusty Time-Life collections over the decades. Who could have imagined that "Kyrie" could sound so fresh and vibrant?
If all you wanted to see and hear were Beatles songs, you would have been disappointed though you shouldn't have been. As in the case with all of His All-Starr Bands over the years, Starr lets the other musicians take the spotlight and perform songs that made them famous in their own right. With so many frontmen onstage for the two-hour show, there was no shortage of showmanship.
Steve Lukathier of Toto led the band through "Africa" and "Rosanna." Gregg Rolie of Santana took charge on the keys as the band played "Black Magic Woman" and "Evil Ways." Todd Rundgren led the band through "I Saw the Light" and "Bang the Drum All Day." Richard Page of Mr. Mister brought the crowd back to the synths of the 1980s with "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings." And Mark Rivera (who has been Billy Joel's sideman for three decades) and drummer Greg Bissonette provided talented and spirited percussion to the 25-song set.
Of course, Starr's chosen field of percussion was front and center all night. During "Bang on the Drum All Day" and "Broken Wings," no fewer than four of the men onstage played percussion. And for much of the night, Starr played his sparkling silver drum set (on a riser, naturally) right next to Bissonette's set.
Starr turned 72 recently, and was thin in his black shirt, black jeans and black shades. Although he went off the stage during "Black Magic Woman," for the most part he was energetic and bantered with the crowd in the self-deprecatory manner for which he is known. His voice has grown deeper over the years, but it didn't matter, as the crowd sang loudly along with songs he sang for The Beatles, such as "Boys," "Don't Pass Me By," and "Matchbox."
And there was his signature song, "If you don't know the words to this song, you're in the wrong venue," Starr told the crowd a moment before the band launched into "Yellow Submarine." The night ended with John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," appropriate as Starr has carried the make-love-not-war torch in the wake of Lennon's death.
The crowd was embarrassingly small for artists of their caliber, especially because lawn seats went for only $20. And the set design was surprisingly spartan. But the people who were there appreciated both Starr and his band, with Toto's "Africa" remarkably inspiring the most people to get on their feet. The song achieved a lift and a life that I don't remember hearing from the recorded version. Good bands do that.
It was fitting that the second-to-last song of the night was "With a Little Help From My Friends," as the band members called each other their BFF's. You realized that if Starr didn't have all of these great musicians as friends, the night wouldn't have been as fun as it turned out to be.
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
P When • Wednesday night
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, West Valley City
Bottom Line • He's Ringo. Would you really expect a bad time?