For more than 25 years Ringo Starr has been getting by on the road with a little help from his friends. Since 1989, the Beatles drummer has periodically recruited a shifting lineup of ace musicians for his All-Starr Band. Always a fun night, the show offers a revue-style set list, each All-Starr offering up two or three of their own hits amid Starr’s vaunted catalog — Beatles gems like “Yellow Submarine,” solo favorites such as “Act Naturally.” Over the years, membership in the supergroup has been extended to everyone from Billy Preston to Joe Walsh and Sheila E.
But Starr, a recent solo inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has been touring with the same lineup for nearly three years now, and playing twice as many gigs as he normally does. And the reason is simple.
“I love this band — we have a lot of fun together onstage and offstage, so here we come again,” says the always amiable Starr on the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s the longest I’ve ever kept a band, and so I’m not thinking of anybody else.” The group, which comes to the Citi Wang Theatre on Friday, includes pop-rock genius Todd Rundgren, Toto’s Steve Lukather, Richard Page of Mr. Mister, former Santana and Journey singer-keyboardist Gregg Rolie, virtuoso drummer Gregg Bissonette, and utilityman Warren Ham on sax and just about everything else.
Starr has something highly complimentary to say of each player, singling out three-time All Starr Rundgren, with whom he co-wrote the nostalgic title track for “Postcards From Paradise,” his newest album. “He’s great to have on stage,” says Starr of the singer, songwriter, and producer who scored such hits as “Hello, It’s Me” and “Bang on the Drum All Day.”
“He has a lot of an energy, a beautiful voice, and a lot of soul,” Starr explains. “And so, I’m not crazy, I’ll just call him back every couple of years.”
He calls Lukather “my last best friend — I don’t have any time to make to any more best friends,” says Starr with just a bit of a laugh. “He’s a beautiful man and incredible player.”
The guitarist — beyond his Toto work an insanely prolific session man who played a big role in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” — remains gobsmacked by that sentiment.
“A childhood hero, and all of a sudden you’re in a band together?” says Lukather, on the line from a Canadian tour stop. “Over the last four years, I’ve really grown to love this man as a human being, forget that he was a Beatle. Once you get past all that, he’s such a fun guy to hang with, and his stories are legendary. And they’re not just Beatles stories, they’re life stories. This guy is 75 years old, and he looks like he’s 40 and his mind is so sharp. He’s still as funny as he was in ‘Hard Day’s Night.’ ’’
Lukather, who tries to schedule his Toto commitments to keep himself available to Starr, says being an All-Starr is also a great gig from a musical standpoint.
“I get to play the part of Carlos Santana, which is fun,” he says with a laugh of the tunes that Rolie brings to the table, like “Oye Como Va.” He continues, “I get to be 10 different guitar players on this gig, every style. I’m doing pedal steel. I’m playing rockabilly stuff like the early Beatles stuff, Richard Page’s stuff, and my own stuff so there are a lot of musical challenges for me.”
In addition to his music, Starr has been exhibiting some of the computer art he creates during his downtime on the road. The Wang will host one such exhibit this Wednesday through Friday. Starr also remains an avid shutterbug, and in September released the lavish “Photograph,” a book filled with pictures taken by Starr and his intimates during his Fab Four heyday. Proceeds from both art sales and the book go to Starr’s Lotus Foundation, which benefits multiple charities.
“I think I’ve got three parts of my brain,” he says, chuckling, of his various creative pursuits. “I am a musician. Whatever else I do, I am a drummer; that’s my main joy and passion. And then I’ve got lots of time around that. So I’ve got the computer art, and I actually paint with brushes, and that’s just for myself, and I’m still taking photographs. Some days I can do a lot of just sitting around — I’m good at that too. I just like something creative going on.”
Of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction — which included a lovely speech from Paul McCartney and a touching tribute from drummers as different as Questlove of the Roots and Tre Cool of Green Day — and all of the love that was showered on him, Starr quips, “It was fabulous. It was how I’d like every night to be.
“It’s one of those times like the Grammys, you get to hang out with people you don’t hang out with all the time,” he adds. “Of course, the all-time finest bass player in the world, Paul, was there, which is always a thrill for me. [Good friend and brother-in-law] Joe [Walsh] came with us. Whenever he holds that guitar, it’s brilliant.” Plus, Starr met a few people he hadn’t encountered previously, including fellow inductee Joan Jett — “a beautiful human being.”
Starr says he did laugh, however, when he realized that most people were using a Teleprompter to help with their remarks, whereas he and Paul McCartney worked off the cuff — including a completely unscripted fart joke.
“We were the only two who had nothing written down,” says Starr with a laugh. “We’re from Liverpool — we just know how to talk.”
The Ringo Starr Fine Art Show runs in the lower lobby of the Citi Wang Theatre Oct. 21, 7-9:30 p.m.; Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Oct. 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Citi Wang Theatre. Free.
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
At Citi Wang Theatre, Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $49-$179. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.