- - Thursday, June 16, 2016

It’s apt that Ringo Starr typically closes his concerts with the Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Since 1989 the charismatic, self-deprecating former drummer of the Fab Four has toured with his All-Starr Band, which will stop Friday night at the District’s Warner Theatre.

The lineup of the band changes from year to year, with Mr. Starr backed by a constantly rotating cast of accomplished musicians. The group performs both Beatles and Mr. Starr’s solo hits, as well as the well-known songs of his backup artists.

“It’s a privilege to be part of the All-Starr Band,” Toto lead guitarist and singer Steve Lukather said. “We all play our parts to make this a show that’s different from any other show.”

Mr. Lukather has been part of Mr. Starr’s supporting cast of troubadours for the last five years. The iconic bandleader with the dark, well-coiffed locks, who will turn 76 in July, could pass for a bloke hitting the half-century mark since the peace-loving vegan is fit, agile and stylish. Mr. Starr is also effortlessly humorous, Mr. Lukather relates.

“Not only does he look younger than anybody else in the band, he has so much energy. He’s drumming and is all over the stage for two hours,” Mr. Lukather said.



For Friday’s District show, Mr. Starr will be flanked by Mr. Lukather, Todd Rundgren, former Santana and Journey keyboardist Gregg Rollie, Mr. Mister vocalist and bassist Richard Page, drummer Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth, Spinal Tap) and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham.

“Who wouldn’t want to play Beatles songs with a Beatle?” Mr. Lukather said in glorious understatement.

A few choice Beatles cuts are on the set list, as are some of Mr. Starr’s solo hits.

“There’s one [Beatles] song written by Lennon, McCartney and Starkey,” Mr. Starr said at a recent show prior to singing the Beatles’ “What Goes On,” which he co-wrote under his real name, Richard Starkey. “I don’t know about you, but I think the names are in the wrong order.”

But it’s not all about him. Messrs. Lukather, Rundgren, Rollie and Page each will play their familiar tunes as well.

“It’s a blast playing the Toto songs like ‘Rosanna,’ ‘Africa’ and ‘Hold the Line’ knowing Ringo is keeping the beat,” Mr. Lukather said.

In addition to ax-slinging with the All-Starr Band, Mr. Lukather is planning a late-summer tour with Toto, which has sold more than 40 million albums.

“I’m so crazy busy,” the guitarist said. “I go to bed early. The old rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is long gone for me. I have two young kids. But every year I make time for Ringo because I love playing with him.”

And yet haughty arbiters of taste have frequently dismissed the laid-back legend, with some music journalists noting that Mr. Starr is not a top-tier drummer — an assertion that infuriates Mr. Lukather.

“Anyone who says Ringo isn’t a good drummer doesn’t know crap,” Mr. Lukather said. “You come to an All-Starr show, and it’s evident how great of a musician he is. Does Ringo have [jazz drummer] Billy Cobham’s chops? No. But what he has is a [verve] that I can’t explain.

“Without him, there wouldn’t be rock ‘n’ roll drumming as we know it.”

Mr. Starr’s former bandmate Paul McCartney, who is also on the road this summer, slips in a deep Beatles track each tour. Any chance Mr. Starr will do the same?

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Mr. Lukather said. “But we did jam on ‘I Should Have Known Better,’ and it was amazing.”

Mr. Lukather has recorded with Mr. McCartney and was also friends with George Harrison. He related an incident when Harrison — who died in 2001 — showed up at his front door in a “beat-up VW.”

“I said, ‘What’s up with the ride?’ He said, ‘They think I’m me until they see what kind of car I drive,’” Mr. Lukather recalls. “The guys in the Beatles aren’t like [other artists] who are about this grotesque display of wealth. For them it’s always been about the music.”

Mr. Lukather admits to geeking out sometimes while jamming with Mr. Starr.

“Sometimes I look back at him, and it hits me that it’s Ringo,” he said. “Someone [once] asked Ringo if he played along with a click track during the ‘Abbey Road’ sessions, and Ringo said, ‘I am the click track,’” Mr. Lukather said while laughing.

Given the lineup of the All-Star Band, District fans can expect a show that is part nostalgia and part rock ‘n’ roll masters class Friday evening. And in front of the substantial professional musicians will be perhaps the world’s most famous bandleader.

“He’s as funny as he was in ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’” Mr. Lukather said of Mr. Starr. “He’s the wisest man I know. 

“I appreciate this because it can’t go on forever,” he said. “Yes, the Beatles music will go on forever, but Ringo and the All-Starr Band can’t last forever.

“I come back every year because it’s fun, and there really is nothing like this show and this band.”

Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band appears Friday at 8 p.m. at the District’s Warner Theatre, located at 513 13th Street NW, Washington D.C., 20004. Tickets are $75 to $280 by calling 202/783-4000 or visiting LiveNation.com.

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