Chicago Tribune 1 March, 1999: by Michael Parrish
What's an ageing rocker to do when he has lost the name recognition and drawing power of his disbanded group but has several instantly recognizable hits under his belt?
For the last decade, one option has been to join Ringo Starr's All Starr Band, which played a pair of area dates over the weekend. The concept of seeing any of these performers, let alone an ex-Beatle, at the Park West, where they played Sunday night, would have seemed unthinkable 20 years ago.
But what could easily be dismissed as a traveling jukebox for Boomers with short attention spans instead proved to be an exciting, well-rehearsed band bringing together musicians who seemed to immensely enjoy each other's company, as well as playing their memorable, if familiar, material.
The focus, of course, was on Starr, who looked fit and healthy and cut quite a figure in his shades and shark-skin suit. Starr was always closer to a music hall entertainer than to a rock star during his tenure with the Beatles, and he offered a generous sampling of both familiar Beatles tunes such as Yellow Submarine and Boys and highlights of his prolific solo career, such as Back Off Boogaloo and Photograph. Starr was in good voice and alternated between crooning and mugging at center stage and pumping out his trademark New Orleans backbeat back on the drum kit.
Driving bassist Jack Bruce is best known as the chief vocalist and songwriter in the legendary 60s trio Cream. Although none of Bruce's many subsequent group efforts has matched that band's success, he remains a formidable instrumentalist and is still ready and willing to crank out White Room and Sunshine of Your Love with gusto.
Todd Rundgren, casual in bare feet and a purple muumuu, served as court jester to Starr's clown prince, playing a stinging lead guitar throughout the show. He splintered a cymbal during an energetic, crowd-pleasing version of his rock anthem Bang On the Drum.
Bandmate Simon Kirke was the drummer in Free and Bad Company, and he handily shared the percussion chores with Starr, doing a convincing imitation of Paul Rogers, the vocalist for his two earlier bands, on All Right Now.
Joining them was Gary Brooker, who provided the rich, soulful voice, co-wrote the songs, and played the haunting organ [sic] that defined the sound of chamber rock band Procol Harum. At the keyboards Sunday night, Brooker showed that he was fully capable of rocking out on a medley of I Don't Need No Doctor and Whiskey Train before dropping the tempo for Whiter Shade of Pale.
The band was rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Timmy Cappello, who played everything in sight, from saxophone and percussion to keyboards and harmonica.
All in all, the group's ensemble playing was tight and impressive. Bruce and Rundgren, in particular, seemed sympatico in their bass and guitar roles, creating a formidable psychedelic storm during the Cream numbers.
Ringo and his All Starr Band certainly didn't break any musical ground during their two-hour show Sunday, but they did play their familiar roster of tunes with conviction and enthusiasm, leaving the capacity crowd happy with an inevitable encore of A Little Help From My Friends.
Thanks to Dave Volpi
Dave adds: Here is an article I found from the Chicago Tribune relating to the Ringo / Gary February 28th gig. Did Gary add a new song to the arsenal or is this reporter misinformed? Check out the 8th paragraph.
What do you think? Is it clearly a reporter's error or has Gary added a song mid-tour that no one can imagine him performing. Or am I thinking of the wrong song?
More Ringo / Gary dates