Not all of the folks attending last night's Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band show at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver might have known who Steve Lukather was. I suspect a lot of them just went to see the ex-Beatle, hoping to hear him revive Fab Four memories with tunes like "Yellow Submarine" and "With a Little Help From My Friends", which he certainly did do.
But I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Ringo fans left the place thinking, "Man, that curly-haired guitar dude on the left sure could play!"
The whole concept of the All-Starr Band is that it's comprised of players who've already made names for themselves in various bands. As well as Lukather—whose mainstream rock outfit Toto hit it big in the eighties—the group included pop great and acclaimed producer Todd Rundgren on guitar and vocals, Mr. Mister leader Richard Page on bass and vocals, and original Santana member Greg Rolie on keyboards and vocals.
One of the cool things about having Rolie in Ringo's touring group is that the setlist includes old Santana hits like "Evil Ways", "Oye Como Va", and "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen", all of which showcased Lukather's imaginative melding of jazz- and blues-based fretwork. The latter number also gave Starr the chance to go all Latin on our asses, although his co-drummer—studio ace and former Joe Satriani skinbasher Gregg Bissonette—was pretty hefty backup.
When Lukather wasn't boggling the minds of the guitar freaks in the sold-out crowd, the former Richard Starkey—who turned 74 last week—took centre stage to sing lead on Beatles-covered tunes like Carl Perkins' "Matchbox" and "Honey Don't" and Buck Owens' "Act Naturally". But then Lukather would blow more minds with his wild, country-flavoured rockabilly licks on those tunes as well.
Eat your heart out, Brian Setzer.
Other highlights of the two-hour show included the three-part harmonies on Toto's "Africa", Rundgren's stirring vocals on his old group Utopia's "Love Is the Answer", and a couple tunes from Ringo's post-Beatles solo career, "It Don't Come Easy" and "Photograph". It was during the latter selection—the 22nd song of a 25-song set—that a middle-aged couple snuck down onto the previously restricted area in front of the stage and started dancing, setting off a stampede that filled up the entire floor with gyrating bodies and shutterbugs in search of the best ex-Beatle iPhone photo of the day.
Since the whole vibe of the stagefront action was in line with Ringo's longstanding "peace and love" mandate, he was totally okay with it. Not once did I hear him holler: "Security! Get in there and bust some heads!"