Ringo's All-Stars take the spotlight

Seeing Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in Tel Aviv was like stepping into a classic rock jukebox.

Ringo Starr performs in Tel Aviv with Steve Lukather (left) and Graham Gouldman. (photo credit: LIOR KETER)
Ringo Starr performs in Tel Aviv with Steve Lukather (left) and Graham Gouldman.
(photo credit: LIOR KETER)
Transcendent it wasn't. But was it fun? Oh boy.
Like stepping into a classic rock jukebox with the original performers emerging from the counter top machine to sing their greatest hits in person, the Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band show on Sunday night in Tel Aviv, was an uncool, fist-pumping throwback to the halcyon days of the '70s and '80s.
Where else could you unabashedly sing along to songs you never would have admitted liking in the first place – like 'Land Down Under" by Men at Work, "Roseanna" by Toto and "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10cc without fear of dirty looks from hipsters, tastemakers and indie rock fans?
If keyboardist Gregg Rolie, the Santana and Journey co-founder who led the band through spirited, jam-fillled versions of "Black Magic Woman" and "Oyo Como Va" had broken into "Don't Stop Believing," there would have been pandemonium in the arena, I tell you.
Oh yeah, there was also Ringo, who sang nearly all of his Beatles hits, save for "Octopus's Garden", and his solo hits save for "Back off Boogaloo" and (thankfully) "The No No Song."
It was a kick to see him bash away behind his Ludwig drum kit on early Beatles rockers "Boys" and "I Wanna Be Your Man." For the rest of his tunes, he was a gangly, cheerleading, "peace and love" front man, that was alternatingly endearing and grating.
Ringo was Ringo – he was always the Beatle in back, and his solo career was as novelty-driven as the Beatles songs Lennon and McCartney penned for him. His voice, distinct if not distinguished, was as strong as ever, and  it was still a thrill to hear "Yellow Submarine," "Act Naturally" and "With a Little Help From My Friends" sung by the source, with uncanny Beatlesque backing from the band.
And what a band it was. Anybody who bought a ticket to the show thinking they were going to see a  Beatles overview, had evidently never checked out YouTube clips or survey set lists of the revue which consists of Rolie, Toto's Steve Lukather and Men At Work's Colin Hays on guitars, more recent addition Graham Gouldman of 10cc on bass, as well as veteran drummer Gregg Bissonette and percussionist/sax player Warren Ham.
They were simply fantastic. Lukather unleashed his inner Santana countless times as he and Rollie presented the American long-haired rocker model versus the more reserved British and Australian presence of Gouldman and Hays on the other side of the stage.
Gouldman is a legendary figure himself, a contemporary of Ringo having written scores of hits songs in the '60s for The Hollies, The Yardbirds and Herman's Hermits. His "I'm Not in Love" was sublime, and seeing him front this band for an entire show of his songs would be a nice alternative to heaven.
Behind the kits, Bisonnette did the heavy lifting, allowing Ringo to keep a basic beat, with his left shoulder rising and lowering in his signature style.
Despite playing virtually the same set for years, the band, and Ringo, seemed like they were having a great time, as was the crowd in the auditorium, which was only at a third capacity after selling out the previous night.
Ringo and the band didn't seem to care. "It's far from a full house, but all the important people are here tonight," the 77-year-old icon said near the beginning of the show. And, through 90 minutes of pleasurable entertainment, he went on to make everyone in the room feel that was true.