Filmed at this historic Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois, this amazing, one-night-only event presents Ringo Starr performing five Beatles classics along with his greatest solo hits in a career-spanning set with The Roundheads.
It Don't Come Easy
I Wanna Be Your Man
Who Can It Be Now? (with special guest Colin Hay)
Don't Pass Me By
I'm The Greatest
Give Me Back The Beat
Memphis In Your Mind
Back Off Boogaloo
With A Little Help From My Friends
Like everyone raised by parents that were former hippies, I grew up listening to plenty of old records. In our household, Elvis and the Stones had nothing on The Beatles. They were the highest form of musical entertainment. From very young ages, my brothers and I were all well-versed in anything and everything Beatles. Although none of the four band members did or have done anything since that period that has matched their combined success, the unique talents of each band member is a necessary part of a what made that perfectly functioning machine. Not one of them is nearly as good as what they collectively were, but they're still worth listening to – and Ringo Starr is giving us proof of that almost 40 year later with his new concert Blu-ray.
'Ringo Starr and the Roundheads Live' was filmed on June 24, 2005 as an episode of PBS's 'Soundstage' series. The former Beatles drummer is accompanied on stage by his band, the Roundheads, as well as special guests (meaning they only show up for a song or two) Colin Hay of Men at Work and Hay's wife, the talented salsa and soul vocalist Cecilia Noel. With nearly a dozen musicians on stage, I can honestly say that this is the best that Ringo has ever sounded without the rest of the Beatles.
Some of what I'm about to tell you will also appear in the technical audio portion of this review, but it's what make this Blu-ray worth checking out, so I'll mention it here too.
Being highly influenced by and a big-time lover of music, I appreciate a concert Blu-ray or CD that is so well recorded and mixed that repeat listenings allow the chance to pick up on things I haven't heard/noticed before. The way that this episode of 'Soundstage' is presented perfectly demonstrates what I mean. Each instrument is so well-recorded and mixed that at any time, you can tweak your ear and specifically listen to any other given instrument – even if the focus at that moment of the song is mean to reel you into the guitarist's lead solo, or the organist's funky jam, or even Ringo's rhythmic drum solo. There's always something new to listen to. This is one of those concerts that you can sit down and watch every once in a while and always pick up on something that you've never heard before. No instrument is lost.
While watching this show (in particular, hearing Ringo and the Roundheads perform the Beatles classics), I realized something that I'd never noticed before – how much of a classic country western sound The Beatles' early songs carry. I'd noticed the rockabilly influence present in their first few albums, but never country western. If you've never noticed it before, you can't miss it while watching this concert – especially during "Octopus' Garden."
Not being around when The Beatles were still rocking and having very limited opportunities to see videos of them performing live, I've never really noticed which Beatle lent his vocals as the lead of each of their songs. In my young mind, I always heard them as a Beatles collective, each of them playing an equal part of a much bigger machine. It's fun to hear Ringo performing these Beatles songs now and recognizing his voice as the lead from these tracks.
The show's setlist is as follows: "It Don't Come Easy," "Octopus's Garden," "Choose Love," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Who Can It Be Now?" (featuring Colin Hay), "Don't Pass Me By," "I'm The Greatest," "Give Me Back The Beat," "Memphis In Your Mind," "Photograph," "Back Off Boogaloo," "Yellow Submarine," "Act Naturally" and "With A Little Help From My Friends" (featuring Colin Hay and Cecilia Noel).
Being more of a "lead" than Ringo, Paul McCartney still gets more love than Ringo as a surviving member of the band – but there's no doubt that Ringo still deserves an equal amount of Beatle love, and this concert proves it. He's more than "just the drummer" – he's a frontman, a lead singer and an entertainer. At 65 years of age (when this episode was filmed), he's still capable of doing everything he did as a Beatle, if not more.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment has placed 'Ringo Starr and the Roundheads Live' on a Region A/B/C BD-25 in an eco-friendly blue keepcase. The only thing that plays before the standard 'Soundstage' main menu is an unskippable FBI warning.
'Ringo Starr and the Roundheads Live' is presented with a 1080i/AVC-MPEG-4 encode in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Considering how great the audio quality is, it's a shame how tame the video quality is.
From the first shot of the (then) recently renovated Genessee Theatre in Waukegan, Illinois, you'll notice the popping bright vibrant colors projected on the drapes, walls and backdrops. Colors, contrast and black levels are solid throughout the entire show, but it's in the sharpness and definition that this Blu-ray lacks.
Unless a camera features a tight, static close-up, there are no details in the picture. For example, from a distance, Ringo's bedazzled jacket appears to have nothing but standard reflective jewels on the lapel, but the close-ups reveal them as star-shaped sequins. You may dismiss this complain because these are small object we're talking about, but nearly all non-close-ups are fuzzy. Few and far between are the sharp ones.
Aliasing is noticeable in a few instances, but banding, artifacts, digital noise and other compression-related issues are absent. Had this been a two-hour concert crammed onto a BD-25, that might be a different story. Edge enhancement and DNR are also absent.
Two listening options are available – LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround. If you've got a 5.1 system (or better), the Master Audio is the only option to consider, but the stereo option is sufficient if that's all you've got.
Like I previously mentioned, the 5.1 track is dynamic and rich. Not only is there lots to hear, but it's fully immersive, utilizing every channel in the best way possible. The thick Gibson guitar solos are just as audible as the bass riffs they're set to. The same goes for the harmonica, keyboard, drums, saxophones and star-shaped tambourines. You can always hear it all. This is a tip-top demo-worthy audio track.
Several other concert Blu-rays I've reviewed lately have featured too-quiet between-track vocal levels, but that's no an issue here. Just as you can hear every instrument at any given time, none of the vocals are lost in the mix, only making the several-part harmonies sound exquisite.
There are no special features.
If you've ever thought of Ringo Starr as "just the drummer" from The Beatles, then you desperately need to see this Blu-ray to understand why he's so much more than that. Ringo is fully capable of writing great music and functioning as an entertaining frontman and lead vocalist. The band who backs him up, the Roundheads, is just as tight as any other major touring band out there – and the Blu-ray's five-star audio quality proves it. While the video quality isn't as sharp as we've become used to, it's better-than-DVD resolution is easily tolerable. But let's be honest – nobody wants to see Ringo as much as they want to hear him. Considering how good he sounds makes this Blu-ray worth owning. If only they would have included a few extra tracks from the abbreviated performance and some interviews to give this release some special features.