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Ringo's All Starr Band

Essen, 1 September 1998

Frank Matheus writes: yesterday, 1st September, I went to the Gruga Halle, Essen, Germany, to attend Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. I had a date with another guy from the mailing list, Gerd, whom I never met before; we had contact only via e-mail. He had sent me a picture, and I recognised him at first sight.

(left to right) Gary Brooker, Ringo Starr, Jack Bruce, Peter Frampton and Simon Kirke on drums

We had a nice evening listening to Gary Brooker and friends. The play list was the same as published on the Beatles' site; there were no variations or surprises. The first two songs were sung by Ringo at the front of the stage. He hadn't started to sing more than two bars when the crowd left their chairs and rushed to the stage; I don't know why, because Ringo's music couldn't arouse any enthusiasm, and the chairs were much more comfortable. Anyway, we had to stand the two hours and fifteen minutes of the concert, and time flew by.

After his soft introduction, Ringo vanished behind his drum set and accompanied his co-drummer, Simon Kirke, who did a fine job. Together with Jack Bruce, whose playing was excellent throughout the concert, they formed a swinging rhythm section for the first real rock song, performed by our hero: Whisky Train. The audience was shocked: The band could play, and they played rock music. And the crowd liked it; Gary got a lot of applause (more than Ringo, of course).

After that, all the stars had some of their solo work to present, and Jack Bruce (Sunshine Of My Life) was more than convincing. Peter Frampton, unfortunately, was not. He is an extraordinary guitar player, of course, but he played listlessly and made fun of the audience. Then he tried to sing and failed; he played a solo song (All I wanna be) accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, which was embarrassing. So his applause wasn't frenetic.

And Gary? He played A Salty Dog solo, only playing piano. He used a Korg digital piano or stage piano or master keyboard (whatever you call that thing), and it sounded great (yes, Joan, it did!); he added an organ voice, so he had organ and piano at the same time. The audience was struck. Anyone who didn't know Gary was convinced at once by this song. Then the band came back, and they gave Conquistador - the hearers were enthusiastic.

When Gary played A Whiter Shade of Pale a little later, there was nothing to add, though the musician who accompanied him on organ (or in fact on a Roland synth) didn't know the right notes and played somewhat different. I don't know who this guy was; he wasn't really introduced by Ringo. He played a lot of instruments: congas, sax, organ, clarinet etc., and I guess he was a hired helping hand.

Gary did not move very much during the show. He stood behind his piano most of the time, and when he had to concentrate, he sat down for a while (eg when he played a great solo during the piece Do you feel like we do?). He stood up and waved with his arms and even clapped his hands, when Simon Kirke sang All Right Now. It seemed that he liked this song and was enjoying himself, but otherwise he did not exaggerate with his gestures. It seemed that the challenge to play in that band wasn't a big one.

When the concert was over, all of the band members needed a towel (and after using it, they threw it into the audience, urgh!); Gary didn't; he did not sweat that much. He wore a kind of zebra shirt with a waistcoat (vest), looked cool, smiled at the audience, and off he went.

The audience was mixed; most of the people were middle age, but there were not few youngsters and teenagers (most of them coming with their parents). I don't know why they came: I guess the least because of Ringo; the others had more applause, except Frampton. And it's not because I am a die-hard Gary Brooker fan when I say that 'The Commander' (as Frampton and Bruce called him) was the highlight of the performance. When I went out, I heard a lot of people discussing: 'Who was that guy on the organ?' - 'Gary Brooker.' - 'Never heard of him, but he was great.'

Indeed he was.

Many thanks to Frank, who adds: '... the pictures aren't that sharp. It's my first attempt with digital photography, so don't judge too hard ...'. No problem!

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