The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ringo plays Birmingham

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band, Birmingham
Symphony Hall,
Concert review by Phil Gillam

Yes, yes, of course it was terribly ‘cabaret’ at times, but what were you expecting, for goodness sake? This is Ringo.

Now, you might say there are two types of performer in popular music: the artist (such as Bob Dylan) and the entertainer (such as Engelbert Humperdink). Ringo has never professed to be an artist, but he’s never stopped being an entertainer. And entertain is what he did supremely well last night.

“If you don’t know this next song, you’re in the wrong venue,” he told the crowd as he launched, into Yellow Submarine.

Surrounded by top-notch, if ancient, musicians – all of whom were major players in their time – Ringo, a sprightly 70 years old, gave us energetic renditions of Honey Don’t, Back Off Boogaloo, Photograph, and of course With A Little Help From My Friends.

Starr has suffered down the years at the hands of critics. But it turns out the mop-top caricatures of John the thinker, Paul the romantic, George the mystic and Ringo the clown were pretty accurate after all.

Last night he proved he was still the clown, still the master entertainer, and still, a much better drummer than many give him credit for. Ringo . . . you’re fab.

The above was the review (short and sweet) which appeared in the Express & Star. I wanted to be kind to Ringo. And I was.

If I had had the space in the newspaper to say any more about the evening, I might have said that I would have preferred a great deal more Ringo and a lot less of his All Starr Band. Yes, I realise that these musicians were all big in their day (now faded stars), but it was Ringo we the people had gone to see. He could have done so much more . . . other songs which he'd recorded with the Fabs, other songs he had recorded as a solo artist. And it would have been really nice if he'd been a little more chatty and told us a few stories along the way.

But with each of his band members having generous guest spots in a two hour show, there really wasn't much room for manoeuvre.

Shame really. I reckon Ringo could easily have put together a much more Ringo-flavoured evening for us. Oh well.

Just one further thought . . .

Back in the sixties, few within the Fab Four's circle escaped the sting of Lennon's acerbic wit and, famously, when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world, John replied: “He's not even the best drummer in the group”. But he was missing the point. Ringo was always so much more than the guy who kept the beat. He was the Chaplin-esque depressive in A Hard Day's Night, he was the cuddly, lovable one in Help!, and, throughout the whole adventure, a crucial part of the phenomenon. Even if Ringo was not the best drummer in The Beatles, he was the best drummerfor The Beatles.