By Kelly Clausen
A Beatle and a Beach Boy walk into a festival. No, this is not the set up for a rock n roll punchline, but an introduction to what happen this weekend in Highland Park at Ravinia as Ringo Starr and Mike Love joined forces to tour all summer long like there’s no tomorrow.
Returning to Ravinia for the first time in 24 years, Ringo Starr (79), and his All Starr Band, performed at the festival under the stars with longtime friend, and one-time rival during the Pet Sounds / Revolver Days, Mike Love (78) and The Beach Boys. This year marks the living legend’s 30th anniversary of his all-star band formation and 1st tour.
The night started off with The Beach Boys. This night, Mike Love, now the sole remaining original touring member of the band, was accompanied by long time contributors that include a special guest, John Stamos. Stamos has been doing these gigs off and on for over 30 years and is a stand out performer with the band, at times, even stealing the show. Stamos (55), jumps around his drum kit like a wild monkey at the zoo and struts the stage with his guitar like a proud lion constantly keeping the physical actions moving.
Love’s voice still reaching those high, nasally and almost chipmunkish ranges, belt out the 2-minute California sun-soaked pop songs like no other. He takes command of the stage like a ringmaster pointing out cues, directing the band on changes and bringing out his talents giving the classic songs their character. He’s surrounded by complimentary musicians who fill in the low end and flanked by a massive band that is almost an orchestra.
Love and The Boys cranked out hit after hit in rapid fire succession covering the entire range of the bands history with songs like “Surfin Safari”, “I Get Around”, “God Only Knows”, “Good Vibrations” and ending with “Kokomo” and a Ramones cover, “Rockaway Beach”. They even managed to get in a Beatles song in with a reworked version of “Here Comes The Sun” that was arranged and sung so differently it was hard to believe it wasn’t their own.
After The Beach boys played through almost 30 songs, they ended on a high note (literally) with “Fun, Fun, Fun” where they got the audience on their feet again, all chanting the 1960’s west coast feel-good hit of the summer.
After a brief intermission and set change, it was time for the man from Liverpool and his band of merrymakers to take over. Ringo is another example of age just being a number. At almost 80 years old, the age makes most people think of a retirement home, or at least Florida, but not here. None of these legends are ready to call it quits and their performances prove it. This isn’t a cash grab money train tour; these are musicians with a purpose. Doing what they love for the fans who love them.
Always evolving, the 2019 superstar lineup consists of Gregg Rolie (Santana/Journey) on keyboards / vocals, Steve Lukather (Toto) on guitars, Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth) on drums, Colin Hay (Men At Work) on guitars / vocals, Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) on bass / guitar / vocals and multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham on just about everything else. Starr knows how to build an amazing team of musicians; this year is no different.
Ringo Starr’s set starts with a stage lit up with rotating star light patterns, bright colors and reveling a cast of true all stars. They begin the night with a Carl Perkins cover, “Matchbox” and from there roll into one of Ringo’s solo hits, “It Don’t Come Easy”. Ringo takes center stage for these songs throwing out peace signs left and right to all who’ll accept them.
From there, the man takes his throne and hops up to his drum kit to introduces the next song. He said, “This man lead one of the greatest rock bands around, and a song that no one else can sing,” We’re then introduced to Gregg Rolie on the keyboards. Rolie talks briefly about how this song really changed things for them and then strikes the keys that make that familiar Hammond organ sound that is, “Evil Ways”. The song that helped put Santana and his band on the map at Woodstock.
Time for another change up. This time the guys from Toto take the helm and belts out “Rosanna”. It’s amazing to hear these songs done by this configuration of musicians. Not only do they sound just like the originals, but I can’t help but wonder what each musician feels about playing the others biggest hits. I mean, not only are they playing with a Beatle, but other rock legends in the industry. Just think of all the times they heard these other songs before. Did they ever think they’d be on stage in arguably one of the greatest cover bands of all time doing them live?
Next, a song from a band I wasn’t familiar much with but at least knew the song. “Pick Up The Pieces” with Hamish Stuart from Average White Band got the joint funky. As I soon learned, James Brown himself called AWB, the funkiest white boys he ever heard. I didn’t know anything about this band other than they did that song, but the man himself performing it was a shock to see. He was a frail looking older gentleman holding down the bass line until this point of the show. Stuart absolutely came to life when he played. It was like watching a kid in a costume coming alive and dancing the night away. Think “Mr. Six” from six flags commercials. He was bopping, dancing and grooving like a member of Parliament Funkadelic. His look threw me off, but wow was I wrong. I totally judged this book’s cover wrong. He really livened up the show.
Now it was time for the man from down under to do his part. Introduced by Stuart, who let us know we were about to hear from a man that was from his original homeland, Mr. Colin Hay. Hay stood far right almost out of site for most of the show and was quite and kept to himself. Now was his chance to shine, and with that un-mistakeable drum trill, we get his bands greatest hit, “Down Under”. Another song that got the crowd going.
From there we got a barrage of hits from the supergroup that included more cover songs from each of their respective former bands. Ringo hits came in waves as well with solo tracks like “Photograph”, “You’re Sixteen” and of course a couple Beatles songs like “I Wanna Be Your Man” and the psychedelic animated hit “Yellow Submarine” before ending with a perhaps his swan song singalong, “With A Little Help From My Friends” where everyone, including The Beach Boys joined in on stage.
Ravinia was all peace and love on this hot summer night under the stars but when the fans left, there was one more chance for celebrating by cruisin’ the backroads and surfin’ the metro rails on the way home as they can dial up their favorite Beatles or The Beach Boys CD as we heard from the parking lot.
For more on Ringo Starrs All Starr Band and tour, click here
For more on The Beach Boys and summer tour, click here
For photos of Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band at Ravinia, click here
For photos of The Beach Boys at Ravinia, click here
For the rest of summer events at Ravinia, click here