The last time Ringo Starr performed in Australia, the Beatles could barely hear themselves over the screaming.
“Mostly you could hear the drum beats from Ringo, the guitars sometimes and all the time the non-stop screams. You couldn't hear the Beatles sing…. Every time they opened their mouths, so did the crowds,” the defunct Brisbane Telegraph newspaper reported in June, 1964, when the Beatles played at (the also defunct) Festival Hall.
How times change, as is evident in the lead-in to I Wanna Be Your Man – a song Ringo often sang live on stage at the height of Beatlemania.
“This one is for the ladies,” he says in his distinctive Ringo voice to the packed Brisbane Convention Centre crowd on Monday night.
“I said, this one is for the ladies.”
It was more a muffled, reserved cheer than a deafening scream and the former Beatle notes the ladies' “weak voices”.
But while Beatlemania is long gone, the genuine love people have for the band – and Ringo himself – is as strong as ever.
Ringo's not a natural front man – one person near me compared his swaying dancing style to a Thunderbirds puppet – and he never looked more comfortable than when he was behind the drum kit.
And the crowd appreciated seeing the Beatle in his natural habitat, with his migration to the kit greeted by rapturous applause during Todd Rundgren's I Saw The Light.
While Ringo is the undisputed star of the show, his All-Starr Band at times outshine their famous leader.
Rundgren, Toto's Steve Lukather, Santana's Gregg Rolie and Mr Mister's Richard Page all have their time in the sun and provide some of the night's highlights.
Toto's Africa had the entire venue on its feet, Santana's Black Magic Woman had some in the audience reliving their acid-fuelled youth and Mr Mister's Broken Wings was straight out of the '80s power ballad playbook.
But, as talented a group as the All-Starr band are (their harmonies are studio-perfect, never more so than during Mr Mister's Kyrie), it's Ringo the crowd – and the band – are here to pay homage to.
And Ringo's in fine, self-deprecating form, no more so than when introducing the rather pedestrian Anthem from his Ringo 2012 album (“which six of you bought – I've got plenty in the boot of my car!”).
It takes eight songs before the Beatles make an appearance.
“When I wrote those immortal lines – 'you were in a car crash and you lost your hair' – I thought, 'Lennon and McCartney, eat your hearts out',” he says after performing Don't Pass Me By, one of two Beatles songs penned by Mr Richard Starkey.
It's not the best Beatles song. It's not even the best song of the night. But for someone who almost counts the White Album as part of his DNA, it's a seminal concert moment for this reviewer.
Here is a Beatles song – a White Album song – being sung live.
By. A. Beatle.
It's a reverence that never fades as long as Ringo's on stage.
As you'd expect, Yellow Submarine gets a run– “if you don't know this song, you're in the wrong venue”- and his first solo hit, Photograph, is great singalong fodder.
However, it's the grandstand finish that really blows the Convention Centre away.
It's Billy Shears himself singing With A Little Help From My Friends. And, at the very end (no encore), his great friend John Lennon gets a Guernsey, with a rousing rendition of Give Peace a Chance.
Did Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band measure up to the lofty Beatles standard? Of course not. But nothing ever will – the sad events of 1980 and 2001 ensured that.
But the man is a legend. A bona fide part of music history. A genuine icon. And his All-Starr Band is at the top of its game.
On a hot and humid Monday night in Brisbane, a grateful audience paid homage.
A Beatle was in the house.
Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band's remaining Australian tour dates:
- Sydney, February 13 and 14 – Horden Pavilion
- Melbourne, February 16 and 17 – Festival Hall
- Adelaide, February 19 – Entertainment Centre
- Perth, February 21 – Challenge Stadium