Ringo gets a little help from friends

FIRST NIGHT Ringo and his Pedigree Chums Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
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The Independent Online
THERE'S a Beatles song in the charts this week ("This Boy" by Scottish kid sensation Justin), but Ringo Starr's single "La De Da" and his Vertical Men album are nowhere to be seen.

In fact, apart from his contribution to "Free as a Bird" and assorted Fab Four anthologies, Richard Starkey hasn't troubled the statisticians for a good 20 years.

After losing the best part of 10 years to alcohol, Ringo came back at the end of the Eighties with his All-Starr band, musicians of the highest pedigree - the safest way to reclaim his status as jovial entertainer and a great way to cover up his limited vocal abilities.

While less extensive than some of the line-ups Ringo has played with recently, the current All-Starr personnel comprise multi-instrumentalist Mark Riviera, Procul Harem frontman Gary Brooker, Cream bass player Jack Bruce, drummer Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company fame, and Seventies soul star Peter Frampton.

Following the Spectoresque shuffle of "It Don't Come Easy" and the plodding "Act Naturally", Ringo, in characteristic beard and shades, explained that we'd spend the evening going around the band with different musicians taking the limelight. Fine when you're talking Gary Brooker's emotive "Conquistador", not so dandy when it's Simon Kirke revisiting jukebox fave "Alright Now".

But what of Ringo? His approach bordered on the nonchalant, though he shone on "Boys" and "I Wanna Be Your Man", double-hitting the snare drum like in the old Cavern days.

Always a trouper, Ringoshowed his sense of humour by introducing the career-nadir of "La De Da" as being number one in Poland. Ringo Starr, the stand-up comic, might yet pull in the crowds.

A final salvo of Cream's old chestnut "White Room", and the era-defining "Whiter Shade of Pale", rounded things off nicely before the very appropriate "With a Little Help From My Friends".

Pierre Perronne