Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Ringo's All-Starrs

Steve Morse in The Globe


Peter Frampton, one of Ringo Starr's able sidekicks Thursday night, joked that Ringo 'throws together' these periodic all-star bands. 'Oops, I mean he handpicks them,' said Frampton, as Starr laughed behind him.

In truth, Starr's last batch of stars did feel thrown together. Among them were Randy Bachman of BTO, John Entwhistle of the Who, and Mark Farmer of Grand Funk Railroad. That show was disjointed, more like a revue by musicians from different planets.

Happily, Thursday was just the opposite. The chemistry among this year's all-stars, including Frampton, bassist Jack Bruce of Cream, keyboardist Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, drummer Simon Kirke of Bad Company and Free, and saxophonist Mark Riviera of Foreigner and Billy Joel fame, was outstanding. They meshed like a true band and supported one another's songs with respect and brio.

In purely musical terms, this was the best of Starr's four tours so far. At the very least, it was right up there with the initial two the first at Great Woods in 1990 with Dr John, Clarence Clemens, Nils Lofgren and Joe Walsh, and the second at Great Woods in 1992 with Walsh, Lofgren, Todd Rundgren, and Dave Edmunds.

Starr's appeal, regardless of his Beatles cachet, has since been downsized to Harborlights, where 3,700 folks took in Thursday night's time-warp revelry amid positively frosty weather. Starr even called it his 'winter' tour. 'But we're not here for the weather. We're here to have a good time,' he said.

Mission accomplished.

Starr played his familiar role of hammy emcee / entertainer, strolling around in a bright blue circus jacket covered with starry designs. He opened with a few throaty, occasionally off-pitch signature tunes such as It Don't Come Easy (no it don't, because Starr was never known for his vocals) and Act Naturally. But the festive tone was set and continued unabated, while the musicianship kept getting better and heavier as the night progressed.

Frampton was the catalyst, the riff-meister who played anyone's licks as well or better than they were on the original records. Frampton's physical look was the most unexpected (short, bright-white hair and wire-rimmed glasses, compared with the wild mane of blond hair of his youth) but his boyish voice was intact on his fluid pop hits Show Me The Way and Baby I Love Your Way. But his best moments were his guitar sparks on Bruce's Cream tune, White Room, and Kirke's grinding, 1970 Free hit, All Right Now.

Frampton and Bruce combined like brothers, jamming later in the show and keeping fans out of their seats for most of the night. This was no memory-lane walk-through, that's for sure. Bruce, still playing fretless bass, added primal vocals on Cream's Sunshine of your love and I feel free.

Brooker was classy throughout, playing a Yamaha Clavinova to stately effect on Procol Harum's Conquistador and the timeless psychedelic ballad Whiter Shade of Pale.

Starr then brought it all back home on the Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends. He got a lot of help Thursday night.

 


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