By JANE STEVENSON - Sun Media
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - Ringo Starr is more than getting by with a little help from his friends judging by the fun and lively launch of his latest All-Starr Band tour on Thursday night with the first of two back-to-back shows at Fallsview Casino Resort's Avalon Ballroom.
Like every other All-Starr trek - he's been doing this since 1989 and launched at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont., three times previously before making the switch to Fallsview this time out - the former Beatles drummer entertained a sold-out crowd of 1,500 with both his solo material and Fab Four hits.
Meanwhile, returning bandmates Colin Hay (Men at Work), Edgar Winter, Hamish Stuart (Average White Band), and Billy Squier, along with newcomer Gary Wright, performed their individual chart-toppers.
But punching up the energy this time out - other than Starr himself who was a bouncing, boyish bubble of enthusiasm - was Stuart, whose funky AWB's hits like Pick Up The Pieces and Work To Do really sounded remarkable in a live setting, and the multi-talented Winters on sax, synthsizers and drums, sometimes just during on one song like Frankenstein.
Wright's Dream Weaver (whose title was inspired by the writings of an Indian mystic recommended by George Harrison, whose first solo album, All Things Must Pass, he worked on) and My Love Is Alive also proved to be crowd favourites along with Hay's Land Down Under and Who Can It Be Now, Winter's Free Ride and Squier's The Stroke.
But it was the 67-year-old Starr who was the main attraction given his musical legacy that was touched upon several times during the two-hour-and-15-minute show with such Beatles classics as Boys, Yellow Submarine, I Wanna Be Your Man, and With A Little Help From My Friends, his own Harrison tribute Never Without You and the show ending cover of John Lennon's Give Peace A Chance.
After a snippet of With A Little Help From My Friends, Starr began the evening in earnest with his solo hit, It Don't Come Easy, before beginning what would prove to be a long night of amusing stage banter.
"I'm a Canadian and I'm okay," said Starr, riffing on Monty Python's I'm A Lumberjack And I'm Okay.
Squier was the hardest rocking of the bunch with the plugged-in Lonely Is The Night faring better than an acoustic solo version of In The Dark, which didn't really work.
Hay was the most naturally engaging performer as he provoked an enthusiastic male audience member in the front row to do some mighty dance moves during Land Down Under - "I want what you're on!" he said - and got the audience to chime in with a spirited singalong during his solo acoustic version of his new song, Are You Looking At Me?
"You know what is happening now - you're a failure if the guy doesn't dance during your song," lamented Starr after the first mad display of dancing.
"I don't care how drunk you are, you aren't coming up here," he added later.
Still, Starr himself got caught up in the excitement of his own tour launch and made the band restart the beginning of Liverpool 8, the title track from his latest album, when he missed the cue.
"I'm too excited," he admitted.
And after a particularly joyous version of Yellow Submarine, Starr left the stage for three songs saying:
"I have to go have a lie down now. I don't know, (the energy) comes from some place."
It was also fun to watch newcomer and second drummer Gregg Bissonette get such a kick out of playing alongside Starr, who finally drew the audience to the front of the stage by the end of the night.
Last Updated: 06/24/08 08:56