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June 15, 2006


Casino Rama, Ontario - June 14, 2006


RAMA, Ont. -- Overall, it wasn't the smoothest of North American tour launches for Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band last night at Casino Rama.

But what the 65-year-old former Beatles drummer and his ninth All-Starr lineup -- three-time member Sheila E, Rod Argent (The Zombies), Richard Marx, Billy Squier, Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) and Edgar Winter -- lacked in polish, they made up for in spirit, good humour and some truly outstanding musicianship.

Particularly noteworthy was Sheila E., whose powerhouse talent on both percussion and drums on her hits Love Bizarre and Glamourous Life was awe-inspiring.

"In one of her solos, she hits the drums more than I have all my life," quipped Starr, who was all smiles whenever she took centre stage.

Lending a funky, strong hand to the rhythm section was the enthusiastic and accomplished Stuart, who often jumped over to hover near Starr's drum kit, and has previously toured with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney.

Speaking of Macca, lead guitarist Squier -- also worth a mention for the tight rendering of his hits Everybody Wants You and Rock Me Tonight, and solo guitar turns throughout the night -- got a good dig in at Starr early in show that clocked in at just over two hours.

"Thank you Paul," said Squier after being introduced by Starr, who opened the night with a mix of solo and Beatles hits -- It Don't Come Easy, What Goes On and Honey Don't.

But the best line of the night went to Marx, who had to follow Winter during one of two solo spots, and whose own schmaltzy music added little to the mix.

"I'd rather follow a live birth," said Marx, at 42, the youngest player on stage.

Sadly, the weakest link proved to be Argent, who celebrated his 65th birthday last night and still wowed on organ but struggled vocally through both The Zombies' She's Not There and Argent's Hold Your Head Up.

In fact, Argent had to restart She's Not There after a false start which found him singing wildly off-key due to out-of-wack keyboards.

"You know it's our first night," Starr reminded the crowd afterwards.

The drummer and his fellow musicians have been rehearsing at Casino Rama for just over the last week and I suspect they'll be doing more as their month-long tour progresses. Their second show at Rama is tonight before they move on to Detroit on Friday.

Otherwise, the evening's sentimental favourite proved to be Winter with his hits Free Ride and Frankenstein, the latter which saw him play strap-on keyboards, saxophone and drums, sometimes two instruments at the same time.

Still, Winter was also the oddest presence on stage with his lumbering stance, Nordic looks and long, white mullet straight out of a Lord Of The Rings casting call, and his inability to not shriek every word he said to the crowd.

For his part, Starr was the night's charming and affable host, whether at the front of the stage or banging away behind his trademark Ludwig drums.

His standout songs were the Beatles songs Boys, Yellow Submarine, I Wanna Be Your Man and A Little Help From My Friends, and his own Photograph and the George Harrison tribute Never Without You.

Starr is presumably touring in support of his latest record, 2005's Choose Love -- the title track of which he performed -- but he pulled no punches in terms of its commercial failure.

"It sold 10 copies in Canada," he joked.


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Have you seen any footage of this, though? The band is full of heavy-hitters, for sure, but Ringo is the lead-singer. He stands out front dancing away, and singing barely adequately. It really looks quite ridiculous, and it reminds me of an act you'd catch in a hotel-lobby-bar.

Then again ... he is a Beatle, and the rest of them are no slouches, either. (Well, I've never really gotten the appeal of Sheila E...) Edgar Winter looks pretty cool up there, though.

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