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Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band play the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

Ringo Starr energetically keeps trekkin' on

Ringo Starr couldn't have looked cooler, calmer or more collected. Two hours before he stepped in front of more than 6,000 fans at the Greek Theatre, the ex-Beatle, less than a week shy of his 76th birthday, welcomed a visitor into his dressing room Saturday as he relaxed in a chair, dressed monochromatically in a sleek black jacket, slim black jeans, matching T-shirt and tennis shoes.

"The tour is great," he said of his latest All-Starr Band, which wrapped a 21-show 2016 U.S. tour concert with the sold-out homecoming show at the Greek.

The lineup featured guitarist, singer and songwriter Todd Rundgren, Toto guitarist-singer Steve Lukather, Santana keyboardist-singer Gregg Rolie, bassist Richard Page, saxophonist-percussionist Warren Ham and drummer Gregg Bissonette.

"You and I and a lot of people know this band — we've been together now for four years," Starr said. "We get on well, the songs are still good, we enjoy playing and people are still coming out. We're supportive of each other — that's what it's all about — and when we're not working, we can still hang out. It's great."

He didn't mention that his latest All-Starr Band lineup has been together now half as long as that other group that made him famous half a century ago.

Onstage later, Lukather quipped, "We're going to outlast the Beatles," drawing a smile from the band leader.

Because it was the last stop on the tour, there was no shortage of expressions of mutual admiration among the band members, a virtual love fest from and surrounding the man who has made his own mantra of the phrase "Peace and love."

He noted backstage that he will once again use his birthday to promote that message in an annual ritual. Starr will hold court outside the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood.

"Other musicians will play songs of mine," he said, "and we'll be trying to encourage everyone, wherever they are, to say 'Peace and love.'"

After the celebrity auction he and his wife, actress Barbara Bach, conducted last winter with hundreds of items they culled from their personal and professional lives, Starr said they've downsized considerably, sold the home they owned in Monte Carlo and now live primarily in Los Angeles.

That made Saturday's two-hour performance essentially a homecoming show, during which he sang lead on a dozen numbers, including his signature Beatles songs "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Yellow Submarine," "Boys," "Don't Pass Me By" and "I Wanna Be Your Man." His reading of "Act Naturally" brought the song full circle, given that it was originally a hit for Bakersfield country star Buck Owens, who recorded it at Capitol in Hollywood.

As usual, the All-Starr Band concept turns over generous spotlight time to Starr's collaborators. That allows Lukather to resurrect Toto hits "Rosanna," "Africa" and "Hold the Line." Rundgren, meanwhile, let loose on his Beatles-esque "I Saw the Light" as well as the rhythmically insistent "Bang the Drum All Day." Page stepped forward on Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" and "Kyrie," and Rolie unleashed the Latin rhythms of Santana's "Black Magic Woman," "Evil Ways" and "Oye Como Va."

The group delivers a high familiarity quotient but didn't always take full advantage of the skills of rock's most celebrated drummer. It would be illuminating, for instance, to hear what Starr would bring to his band mates' hits with his distinctively unfussy, rock-solid rhythmic accompaniment rather than meticulously re-creating the original drum parts by having fellow drummer Bissonette add so many complex flourishes and fills.

Starr's characteristic energetic spark and certainly his wit showed no signs of diminishing through the years. He spryly bounded on and off stage and near the end of the show engaged in a flight of jumping jacks near the conclusion of "With a Little Help From My Friends."

The one overt acknowledgement of the passage of time came with a quick lyric change in his performance of "I'm the Greatest," which, he told the crowd, "was written for me ... long ago, by John Lennon." Where Lennon wrote "Now I'm only 32, and all I want to do is boogaloo," Starr wryly sang, "Now I'm way past 32 ... ."

Although Saturday's performance brought his latest concert run to an end, Starr said backstage, "I'm more than halfway through a new album," using a studio at his L.A. home and tapping musician pals whenever they drop by to visit. His songwriting partners include Lukather, Glen Ballard, Dave Stewart and Van Dyke Parks.

Starr soon will head to Las Vegas for a 10th-anniversary celebration of the Cirque du Soleil show "Love," which has been outfitted with new technological elements and some revamped numbers. The retooled version has been running since February, but Starr said he will see it for the first time July 14, when he's slated to be alongside Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.

"I want to be surprised too," he said. "They do a great job."

 

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