Fresh Nonfiction: Ringo Starr's 26-Year Tour of Peace, Love, and Potpourri
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Ringo Starr's 26-Year Tour of Peace, Love, and Potpourri
Why is a yawn the international sign for boredom?
I had this thought as I watched Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band in Boise recently. The tickets were gratis, courtesy of a friend of a friend who couldn't make the show. This latter detail isn't to distance myself from the concert, to act all "bye yum pum pum" about skipping My Morning Jacket (playing that same night), or to join that tired refrain of Ringo being somehow less-than the three others rounding out the Fab Four. I have great respect for Ringo (due, in part, to my father playing Ringo-defense, long before it was cool). The guy's an under-appreciated drummer and, according to The Queen of Noise, "the most influential Beatle."
But Ringo isn't playing with the Beatles anymore (obviously). He's 75 now, but could easily pass for ten years younger, continuing to flash the double peace sign in spades around the country with six other quarter-of-a-band members, a motley-and-Mott-the-Hoople-hodgepodge of musicians playing a mismatched collection of hits. It's a very odd experience, His All-Starr show. You go from marching along to "Yellow Submarine" right into "Broken Wings" and "Rosanna." Eighties pop not your speed? Wait five minutes and you're safely back in rumba-town with "Oye Como Va." And sure, you might have favored an earlier All-Starr iteration - featuring the likes of Levon Helm and Clarence Clemons - but this is a 26-year old magical mystery tour, dropping off the dying and the grateful dead and picking up younger (ish) musicians at every stop.
"It's a very odd experience, His All-Starr show. You go from marching along to "Yellow Submarine" right into "Broken Wings" and "Rosanna." Eighties pop not your speed? Wait five minutes and you're safely back in rumba-town with "Oye Como Va..."
The crowd is what really sold the All-Starrs: the thirtysomething man with a bad sunburn doing interpretative hat dancing (?) in the open space behind the floor seats; the crispy-haired woman three rows ahead recording two-thirds of the entire show (and the audience around her) with her iPhone, flash on the entire time; the general feeling that these folks, these mostly-Boomers, dressed to the tens, walked in the door thinking, "Well, this is going to be a wonderful show," before happily queueing up to pay $8 for a Shock Top. There wasn't cynicism but wine-drunk dancing, no texting during the show but a gallery of washed out photos of the back of someone's bald head, no bye yum pum pum but plenty of peace signs. An altogether different experience, I'd wager, than My Morning Jacket.
And yet, this is where I yawned. That might make you think I was tired or bored...but you'd be wrong. And maybe the whole affair - aging musicians playing aged hits from bygone bands - feels desperate or depressing to you. But, sometimes, a yawn is just a yawn. A biological if-then. It's 10pm : I yawn. Ringo is drummer, a musician : he drums, and plays music (and doesn't need your pity, thank you and peace).
I doubt Phil Selway or Bryan Devendorf will start their own All-Devendorf offering in 20 or so years, featuring the bassist from Muse, one-quarter of One Direction, etc. Minus Questlove, Ringo might very well be the last drummer capable of leading a greatest hits parade (at least, one that people will actually pay to see). But if and when Phil or Bryan shuffle across the country, their potpourri of peers in tow, I dearly hope our generation shows up, dancing wine-drunk, taking bad selfies, dressed to the tens, and happily queueing for $16 beers.