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October 30, 2014

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Photos: Ringo Starr and Co. bring hits to the Palms with varying success

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Denise Truscello/WireImage/DeniseTruscello.net

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at Pearl at the Palms on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.

Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at Palms

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at Pearl at the Palms on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Ringo Starr Launches Picture Book

Ringo Starr appears at an event to promote the publication of his book of pictures Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Launch slideshow »

The problem with Ringo Starr’s set at the Palms’ Pearl Theater on Friday night crystallized when, around the third overwrought Santana cover, the two middle-aged women next to me took out their smartphones and proceeded to check their emails.

It’s not that Ringo and his All-Starr Band were doing anything wrong, per se. After all, early Santana keyboardist Gregg Rolie was leading the tune — Santana’s version of “Oye Como Va” — along with ’70s rocker Todd Rundgren, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Mr. Mister singer Richard Page, saxophonist Mark Rivera and drummer Gregg Bissonette.

Showcasing tunes from Starr and his band members’ respective careers has been the All-Starr Band’s selling point since its first incarnation in 1989. Now in its 12th iteration, however, the rotating supergroup seems to be suffering from the lack of diversity of its early days, when it featured the likes of Levon Helm, Clarence Clemons and Sheila E.

For more than two hours Friday night, the band delivered a lovingly cheesy slate of ’70s jams and ’80s soft rock, peppered with a half-dozen Beatles and Ringo solo tunes.

And while they were clearly having a good time doing it, it was equally apparent that they weren’t trying very hard. Rundgren garbled through tunes like “I Saw the Light.” Lukather’s guitar solos veered into indulgence, too predictably ornate to hold the audience’s attention for the long stretches he returned to time and again. Even Starr — thrilling as it was to see him behind the kit — mostly tapped along in cheerful but tame conjunction with Bissonette.

The star power is still there — even this jaded critic’s heart fluttered during “With a Little Help From My Friends” — but this time around the band seems content to rest on the laurels of their names and an “old boys” band mentality. From Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day” to Toto’s “Africa,” the band churned out hackneyed tune after hackneyed tune, striving for little more than the nostalgic efficacy of a Las Vegas hotel bar cover band.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t play their hits — especially when appealing to the broad tastes of a global audience, coming off of their South American tour. And after 45 years, Starr can be forgiven for half-singing through “Yellow Submarine.” But showing off true all-star talent would’ve meant respecting their audience by challenging themselves with more varied material in addition to those hits.

A take on some old ’50s standards (and no, that doesn’t include Starr’s goofy rendition of Carl Perkins’ “Honey Don’t”) or deeper, more down-to-earth rock cuts from their respective eras would’ve gone a long way. Perhaps Starr could’ve honored the 45th anniversary of “The White Album” with some unconventional covers, in addition to his setlist standard “Don’t Pass Me By.”

That said, Starr’s never been one to regularly burden himself with artistic gravity. It’s his easygoing demeanor and famously self-effacing charm, both of which were in spades Friday night, that helped crystallize The Beatles’ chemistry and identity.

And it’s that spirit that for nearly 25 years has drawn dozens of the world’s top musicians to surrender their pretension and collaborate together as part of The All-Starr Band. Despite the evening’s weary moments, there were still others that inspired fans to wave homemade “I ❤ Ringo” signs, shouting back his catchphrase “Peace and love!” that, however cliche, thanks to Ringo will always ring true.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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