By Mark Guarino
You’ve been there before: On your couch, 2 a.m. Sunday morning, nodding off to television infomercials selling greatest hits collections from decades long past. In your drowsy state, all the power riffs and sitars and mullets and prayer beads start to make you feel you’re stuck in a time capsule that’s welded shut.
Replace the couch with a plastic folding chair and that was similar to what it felt like Sunday at the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, where Ringo Starr and the 10th installment of his All-Starr Band performed a night of oldies, only some of them actually goodies.
Starr, who celebrated his 68th birthday last week, played the role he has long cherished since his Beatles days. He strolled through the show as emcee, drummer, occasional singer and continual joker. “If you don’t know this song you’re … probably waiting for Sting,” he said before launching into “Yellow Submarine.”
One-liners like that, and the occasional song, would have made a perfect night. However, as is tradition, Starr handed 12 of the 26 songs played to musicians whose collective repertoire would make a decent bill at a suburban street fair. Edgar Winter may have pioneered the synthesizer, but his classic, chaotic jam “Frankenstein” sounded prehistoric. As did the cosmic goo of Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver.”
But it was little surprise that those draining detours only helped Starr — playing the Beatles songs he made famous plus covers (“Act Naturally,” “Boys”) — look, act and sound like the youngest kid on the block.
Starr dedicated a new song, “Never Without You,” to George Harrison and it borrowed from him too: melting vocal harmonies, references to Harrison’s songs and the late guitarist’s signature guitar inflections, this time courtesy of Billy Squier.