Monday, July 23, 2012

My Nominees For Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band 2013 Edition

If he goes out again in 2013 with a new lineup, it will ironically be his 13th version of the band. He's already re-enlisted many of his favorites on several tours of duty. They're starting to look a little ragged.
He's included almost every '60s-'80s singer-musician with a handful of hits in his "All-Starrs" since his 1st tour back in '89. I wanted to find him some "new blood" to help keep things interesting for the man and the band. Here are my picks:

Graham Gouldman: guitarist, "For Your Love" "Heart Full of Soul" "Bus Stop" "I'm Not in Love" "The Things We Do For Love."
Paul Westerberg: guitarist, "I'll Be You," "Alex Chilton," "Merry Go Round," "Dyslexic Heart."
Karl Wallinger: keyboardist, "Way Down Now, " "Ship Of Fools," "God On My Side."
Tom Johnston: guitarist, "Black Water," "Long Train Runnin' "Listen To The Music," "China Grove."
Gregg Allman: organist, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," "Whipping Post" "Midnight Rider."
Roger McGuinn; guitarist, "Eight Miles High" "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star."
Boz Scaggs: guitarist, "Lowdown," "Lido Shuffle.
Fred Turner: bassist, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," "Takin' Care Of Business," "Roll On Down The Highway."

These artists have yet to tour with Ringo. Can you think of any others still alive from the '60s-'80s with 2-5 great songs you'd like to induct? Let's help the man out!

Here's the list of previous road warriors, you can't use any of them:

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Bands

First All-Starr Band

Second All-Starr Band

Third All-Starr Band

Fourth All-Starr Band
1997 - 1998

Fifth All-Starr Band
  • Ringo Starr - drums, vocals
  • Todd Rundgren (Nazz, Utopia and The New Cars) - guitar, drums, vocals
  • Gary Brooker (Procol Harum) - keyboards, vocals
  • Jack Bruce (Cream) - bass, keyboards, vocals
  • Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company) - drums, vocals
  • Timmy Cappello - saxophone, keyboards, harmonica, guitar, vocals

Sixth All-Starr Band
  • Ringo Starr - drums, vocals
  • Dave Edmunds (Rockpile and Love Sculpture) - guitar, vocals
  • Eric Carmen (Raspberries) - keyboards, guitar, vocals
  • Jack Bruce (Cream) - bass, keyboards, vocals
  • Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company) - drums, vocals
  • Mark Rivera - saxophone, harmonica, vocals

Seventh All-Starr Band

Eighth All-Starr Band

Ninth All-Starr Band

Tenth All-Starr Band
  • Ringo Starr - drums, vocals
  • Billy Squier - guitar, bass, vocals
  • Colin Hay (Men at Work) - guitar, vocals
  • Edgar Winter - keyboards, saxophone, vocals
  • Gary Wright (Spooky Tooth) - keyboards, vocals
  • Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) - bass, guitar, vocals
  • Gregg Bissonette - drums, vocals

Eleventh All-Starr Band
  • Ringo Starr - drums, vocals
  • Wally Palmar (The Romantics) - guitar, harmonica, vocals
  • Rick Derringer (The McCoys, Johnny Winter, the Edgar Winter Group) - guitar, vocals
  • Edgar Winter - keyboards, saxophone, vocals
  • Gary Wright (Spooky Tooth) - keyboards, vocals
  • Richard Page (Mr. Mister) - bass, vocals
  • Gregg Bissonette - drums, vocals
  • Mark Rivera - saxophone, percussion, vocals (2011 Latin America Tour Only)

Twelfth All-Starr Band
  • Ringo Starr - drums, keyboards, vocals
  • Steve Lukather (Toto) - guitar, vocals
  • Gregg Rolie (Santana) and (Journey) - keyboards, vocals
  • Todd Rundgren (Nazz, Utopia and The New Cars) - guitar, harmonica, bass, percussion, vocals
  • Richard Page (Mr. Mister) - bass, guitar, vocals
  • Mark Rivera - saxophone, percussion, keyboards, guitar, vocals
  • Gregg Bissonette - drums, percussion vocals

Sunday, July 22, 2012

HearSay Live Review: Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, final show at the Greek Theatre in L.A. 07.21.12.

August 16th will mark the 50th anniversary of Ringo Starr joining the Beatles, although he probably won't be doing much to celebrate. "It was a wonderful time," he was quoted, "but it was so long ago. I'm doing this now." "This" is the 12th incarnation of Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, which wrapped up its five-week U.S. tour Saturday at the Greek Theatre, and I was lucky enough to catch the show. I'd never seen him, and was curious to find out if he still had the stamina to make it through a full set, and being their were no openers, I'd hoped we'd be in for a long evening-given the amount of hits between the artists.

I'm really going to try to get through this review without using the lazy, tired, and painfully obvious cliche of mentioning how he "got by with a little help from his friends," yuk, yuk.

The second you see Ringo, you immediately get the feeling you want to pinch yourself.  It was the same when I initially saw Paul McCartney. You can't believe after all these years, you're in the midst of honest-to-gosh Rock royalty! The ever-charming Mr. Starr who turned 72(!) on the 7th, was joined by some  amazing musicians including Gregg Bissonette on drums, saxophonist-percussionist Mark Rivera, multi-instrumentalist Todd Rundgren, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, keyboardist-singer Gregg Rolie, formerly of Santana & Journey, (the latter who were ironically playing a casino just outside L.A. this night) and Mr. Mister singer-songwriter-bassist Richard Page. The roster was a little light compared to previous R.S.a.h.A.S.B. tours, but the audience was in store for a decent set of crowd pleasers regardless.

"I still love to play," he told one interviewer. "I go down the front and sing 'Photograph' or whatever, then I get to be back to the drums and play with all these other musicians. It's a win-win situation. I get the chance to be both the entertainer and the musician. Everyone's a star, but I'm the big star."

It’s on these tours that Starr gets to literally play "musical chairs," jumping from the drum stool where he supplies a second beat for his buddies' T-40 tunes, to the lead singer's mic where he belts out a few choice covers and hits of his own. The resulting set being a bargain for fans of classic Rock/Pop artists who generally have less than 5 big hits-many of which we like-but not enough to shell out for a full concert, and fans of Ringo's better known work. It's a 50-50 proposition: 50% Beatle/Ringo classics, and 50% All-Starr hits. Starr looked, sounded, and performed like a man much younger than his age. His being ''clean'' and a healthy diet must be to blame. (Like Macca, he's a devout vegetarian.)

Opening with the less than satisfying Beatles cover "Matchbox,” he got down to business with a rousing, George Harrison-penned “It Don’t Come Easy.” Introducing "Wings," a track from his latest CD "Ringo 2012," he addressed some major changes in the industry since he used to load his own drums in the lad's van. Ringo asked the crowd if anyone knew he'd released  the disc, then humorously added, “I’d like to thank the five of you who bought it, the seven of you who downloaded it, and the three of you who bought the vinyl!” The droll humor of the world's most famous drummer was very much appreciated, and we ate it up.

Rundgren who appeared to be playing second banana to the Fab One, was dressed in some kind of white suit that seemed to have had splotches of bright paint on it. He sang his two best known songs, “I Saw the Light” and “Bang the Drum,” as well as "Love Is the Answer." When I heard he was on board, I was hoping he'd play the much more interesting Utopia songs "Hammer In My Heart," & "Princess Of The Universe."  instead of the last two but alas...

Dressed more conventionally, Rolie provided some Latin-tinged FM classics from his time in Santana while tinkling the keys of his Hammond B3 organ. The smooth, seductive sounds of voodoo Rock permeated the evening almost as prominently as the pot smoke that began to sift through the air as the band played “Evil Ways” the raucous "Everybody’s Everything" & Peter Green's “Black Magic Woman.” The latter song giving the group a chance to stretch out their musical muscles, as well as "the funny one," to take a break backstage. In particular, Bissonette and Lukather showed why they "got the gig," with David Lee Roth's ex-stickman pounding the skins as if it's the last time he'll be playing that song, (oh yeah, it is-tour's over). He sounded like he was auditioning for his next gig as Santana's drummer-and proved he could easily fill that position with a short, tasteful drum solo near the song's end. Lukather (looking somewhat like Rolie's younger brother due to the dueling goatees) was firing off dozens of notes for every one Santana originally played, riffing like his life depended on it, he was the show's hometown boy who done good, furiously  milking his axe for all it was worth to the delight of fellow Angelenos who appreciatively punctured the night sky with chants of "LUUUUUUKE" twice during the show.

 Photo by Lawrence K. Ho

Soon came Page's turn at the mic for the Mr. Mister hits, “Kyrie” and “Broken Wings,” These were 'the bathroom break songs for me. Lukather then took over to deliver strong versions of Toto’s “Rosanna” and “Hold the Line,” albeit with vocal assists from Page and Rivera due to his limited singing range. Steve was feeling a little verklempt and maybe nostalgic as he exclaimed how Ringo was one of his earliest and biggest influences. The grateful guitarist gave a heartfelt thank you to the man he called "boss."

Feeling itchy to get back to singing, Ringo sprang “Don’t Pass Me By” on us. The tune from the 'White Album,' (arguably) the Beatles' best  release, had the ring leader banging away on the keyboards before landing upstage. Starr's winning sense of humor caused him to blurt out afterward: “When I wrote those words-'You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair,' I thought, 'Watch out, Lennon and McCartney!' "

Other than "Octopus's Garden" and "Goodnight," they pretty much got in all of Ringo's Beatle-era tracks from “I Wanna Be Your Man,” to “Yellow Submarine,” to “With a Little Help From My Friends.” They also included some more Beatles covers like “Act Naturally,” and "Boys" as well as the early solo hit Lennon wrote especially for him, the excellent "I Am The Greatest." "Anthem," a song about Starr's favorite topic: peace from his latest held it's own as well. Perhaps the non-Beatle song highlight came when Joe Walsh ambled onstage to get his ups at bat to rock the crowd with  “Rocky Mountain Way,” which turns 40 next year-and yes-he brought the talk box...

It most literally was a 'starr-studded' night as the show closers "With A Little Help/Give Peace A Chance featured backups by Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton, Walsh, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright-all former All-Starrs, as well as Mickey Dolenz, Jeff Lynne, Jim Keltner, Matt Sorum, Keith Allison,  and actor Bud Cort....
Oh, and somehow, Corey Feldman was let onstage for some bizarre reason. Unfortunately, my hopes of getting a 150+ minute show were dashed when the clock ran out at about 2:07. Hell, we didn't even get a single encore!

Ringo recently said: "I'd like to be remembered for trying to spread peace and love around the world."
He definitely did on this typical, warm and perfect L.A. Summer's eve...

Missed opporTUNEites: other than "It Don’t Come Easy," "Photograph," "I Am The Greatest" and the two big Beatle tunes, I would have traded any of the other songs for "Back Off Boogaloo," "King Of Broken Hearts," "Never Without  You," (written for Harrison) "No No Song," and "Oh My My." It would have made the difference between a great show and an unbelievable one!

Oh, and a splendid time was had by all.... Well, I only promised I wouldn't use the most obvious cliche... ;)
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band perform at the Congress Center in Prague.

Michaela Feuereislova/isifa/Getty Images

Check out some fan footage of the show:
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band - Africa [Live at the Greek, 07.21.12]
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band - Black Magic Woman [Live at the Greek, 07.21.12]
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band - With A Little Help From My Fiends [Live at the Greek, 07.21.12]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

HearSay Live Review: The B-52s vs Squeeze - Greek Theatre L.A. 6/30/12

Live at the Greek Theatre in L.A., '80s vs '90s round two:
The B-52s vs Squeeze at the Greek Theatre Saturday, June 30th. (Winner: Squeeze)

Although kind of strange bedfellows, Squeeze and the B-52s was over all a blast (from-the-past). However, a much more appropriate bill would have been B-52's and Devo-who are appearing at the Greek in September opening for Blondie. (Talking Heads and Oingo Boingo couldn't be reached for comment.) The B-52s have done several of these types of tours in the past with acts such as the Pretenders and the Go-Go's. These dual headliner shows are a great way to kill two birds with one ticket, however, I can't abide by the fact that the bands this evening both played under 80 minutes. They both have over 35 years of material to draw on, is 90 minutes too much to ask for?
I hadn't seen Squeeze since 2010, nor the B-52s since before their last release, and I was in the mood for some good old fashioned, yet sophisticated "Britpop" and retro, kitschy surf guitar based pop rock. Obviously, you can't get through a night like this without the ugly N-word popping up. O.K., so it's purely an adventure in nostalgia, so what? Music was more fun and carefree back then. Hell, so was life in general...

Their first area gig since debuting at Coachella just a few months ago, Squeeze hit the stage just after 7:30 while still light out. Lead singer/guitarist Glen Tilbrook-sporting a ridiculously long beard-walked over to his mic and bellowed: "Hello, what the devil are you doing here?" With that, they launched into a fine version of "Take Me I'm Yours," the excellent marching drum beat powered track. The band was in excellent form and got down to business, sending long time fans on a trip down memory lane. Tilbrook infused the tune with an extended, tasteful guitar solo. It's easy to forget how gifted he is as a guitar-slinger, albeit a melodic, understated one. "If I Didn't Love You, I'd Hate You" sounded just like the original record-only live. Next came "In Quintessence," and "Is That Love," a pair of songs from East Side Story, one of their best albums, the latter sounding far stronger. Tilbrook joked that they had a "string quartet hidden backstage-they're way too glamorous to have out on stage with us" for their first of 3 new songs from their upcoming release, an orchestrated track about racism called "Tommy." Another new song, "Top of the Form" had a fun Ska beat, and sounded like a song recorded back in the day, but wasn't catchy enough to be counted as an instant classic. "Another Nail in My Heart," the wounded romantic's theme song was letter-perfect. Of course Chris Difford got his chance at the mic for a rollicking "Cool For Cats." Another pop classic about forlorn love, "Up The Junction," sounded as fresh as ever. The final new song, "Honey Child" had a kind of charm Squeeze are famous for, with lyrics once again lamenting star-crossed love.

A very strange wild card showed up little more than halfway through: "Bang Bang," the band's second single and a song that Difford and Tilbrook are not proud of. (They refused to let be included on any of their compilations.) More power pop fueled classics followed, including "Goodbye Girl," and the barnstormer: "Hourglass." The manic energy of "Hourglass" being a show highlight. "Annie Get Your Gun," doesn't hold up well and should be retired. After asking "How we doing now?" for the umpteenth time, Tilbrook and company closed with two of their best songs: "Pulling Mussels From the Shell," probably the best vacation story ever set to song, and "Tempted." Right before "Tempted," the audience started clapping in unison to the tempo of their classic ode to infidelity, knowing in advance it was a forgone conclusion they'd end with it. Very few of us were not singing along to that one. But the crowd wasn't done with them yet. Squeeze encored with a ferocious "Slap and Tickle," and an understated, extended "Black Coffee in Bed" which featured a funky kicker and one of G.T.'s inimitable band introductions at the end.

Missed opporTUNEities: "Trust Me To Open My Mouth, "Footprints," and "If It's Love" should've been included. Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The B-52's are the only band I can think of that's been together over 35 years now that only has 8 original albums! And after all these years, you'd think they'd know how to start a concert, but curiously, the whacky, tacky foursome opened with "Eyes Wide Open," a very mediocre track from 2008's Funplex, making thousands of people who stood up upon the bands' arrival thinking they were going to get an irresistible dance classic-feel foolish. They then underwhelmed with "Mesopotamia," the less-than-stellar EP title track. Finally, they kicked things into high gear with a rousing version of  "Private Idaho." Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson proving they still got game while playing off each other. Next, Cindy Wilson struggled with the upper register vocals on "Give Me Back My Man," but she soldiered on fairly well the rest of the evening. "Funplex," their ode to consumerism failed to excite, just another chance to relax till the real deal came along again.

It's hard to believe it's been almost a quarter of a century since the release of their best album, Cosmic Thing. Sadly missing from the set was that album's excellent "Channel Z," and the raucous title track. However, "Roam," a song a lot of people were anticipating, didn't disappoint. Everyone was back on their feet, dancing and chiming in-and continued on for "52 Girls," which rocked. Three of their better recent songs, "Love in the Year 3000," "Too Much Too Think About," and "Hot Corner" where enjoyable enough, although "Ultraviolet" should have made the cut too. Then came the one-two punch of "Whammy Kiss" and "Love Shack." Of course everyone including nearby rodents were up on their feet for "Love Shack," being the second of the band's triple crown legacy, and the show closer. It wasn't long till they got back on stage for the "Peter Gunn Theme"' meets 50s Sci-Fi soundtrack; "Planet Claire" which was super fun. Of course they closed with the ultimate beach party tune, "Rock Lobster ." The crowd was at fever pitch during what we all knew had to be the night's last song. Yes, everyone was rockin, everyone was groovin, and I was on the lookout for piranhas....

Missed opporTUNEities: Hard to overlook in a stingy 70-minute set, almost a third of the songs were marginally enjoyable-especially when they left out classics like previously mentioned Cosmic Thing tracks, "Lava," "Strobe Light," "Dance This Mess Around," and "Song For a Future Generation." It's just not a party without those songs. They also missed out on a great team-up with Squeeze: "Red Lobster in Bed."  Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.

Overall, a somewhat gnarly show, have a bitchin' Summer!

Photos by Debi Del Grande.

Since they refused too play it, I will-here's "Song For a Future Generation." Enjoy.

HearSay Live Review: Summerland - Greek Theatre L.A. 6/29/12

Live at the Greek Theatre in L.A., '80s vs '90s round one:
Summerland June 29th, 2012

I saw the inaugural "Summerland" tour Fri. If you're a fan of mediocre, '90s to early '00s "Alt Rock," then this show's for you: Marcy Playground vs Lit, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, and Everclear. Sugar Ray won by a nose if only for their decent cover of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" and Everclear's many sound problems. Primarily the first '90s nostalgia tour, at least Everclear and Lit have released new albums. It was strange to hear Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath and Everclear's Art Alexakis bragging through the evening about selling out, when at least 500 of the 6162 seats were blocked off and empty. Both them cats need to check in with their optometrists, all the liquor & drugs has affected their vision. (Although A.A. is now in AA.)

Ray's karaoke experiment featuring two teenage boys was half way interesting in that the guy who 'sang' the Beastie Boys' “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” had it goin' on, the other guy seems to have been the only person on Earth to have not heard  Black Eyed Peas' “I Gotta Feeling.” Both being two of the greatest NINETIES songs of course. (WTF?)
Like him, or loathe him, McGrath displayed an easy going charm, a sense of humor and humbleness while clearly acknowledging the fact that his music career has seen better days. Comically, the "Seinfeld" theme popped up a couple times in between his 'grateful to be here' banter, automatically reminding us of his band's glory days and a by-gone era before iPhones, X-Boxes and sexting. Clearly the highlights of their set was the opener “Someday” and it's nearly identical sounding sibling “Fly,” S.R.'s last song which had everyone singing along.

Alexakis' band didn't fare as well due to over all sloppiness  and  engineers who must not be an Everclear fans. They just couldn't get his vocals too sound half way decent. I found this strange since they were fine for every other band. Either completely overwhelmed by the mix, or totally subdued tonally, it was as if Art's throat had a few coats of mud coating it half the time he was throwing lyrics onstage. He sounded very hoarse of course. Sonically, things weren't much better for the band. The guitars were mushy, and ill-defined. Good news if you're a bass and drums fan though. By the time they came on, the crowd was good & lubricated and didn't seem to mind as they sang along to their best songs: "I Will Buy You a New Life," "Father of Mine," and of course the iconic show closer, "Santa Monica."

Opening act Marcy Playground reminded everybody why they liked their one hit “Sex and Candy” so much. They obviously closed their set with it, and it still holds up remarkably well. Fullerton's Lit played a set of mostly forgettable tunes and the excellent "My Own Worst Enemy," and  "Miserable." "Miserable" receiving the award for 'most clever wordplay' of the evening. The excitement-challenged Gin Blossoms, (who seem to have more legit hits than anyone else on the bill, so what are they doing in the middle of the set?) played a tight, no frills, ho-hum 8 song set. The 'highlights' of their set were "Til I Hear From You," and "Hey Jealousy."

McGrath should seriously think about adding one more gig to his resume: comedian. Over-selling the bill a few times by saying it's “the music we all love” and referring to the bands as “the most iconic of the decade.” (Paging Nirvana, Radiohead & Beck-I hear fightin' words!) Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, he REALLY topped himself when he praised Art Alexakis as “our generation's Brian Wilson.” Thanks Mark, I needed a good laugh! They've threatened to bring this tour back next year, having a new set of bands open for "EverRay". Verdict: 2.5 stars out of 5. Might I suggest a stronger set of openers:

1. Fastball/Dishwalla/Toadies/Sonichrome
2. Screaming Trees/Lemonheads/Eve 6
3.Tonic/Collective Soul/Third Eye Blind

If this stuff is your kinda medicine, check out the similar themed Last Summer on Earth Tour (featuring Barenaked Ladies, Blues Traveler, Cracker and Big Head Todd & the Monsters) which stops in L.A. at the Gibson Amphitheatre on July 27. Now where's that "Seinfeld" box set...