Tag Archives: Celebrity Theatre

REVIEW: Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band — a Memorable Evening of Rock ‘N’ Roll Intimacy at Celebrity Theatre (5-20-23)

PHOENIX — Thinking of the history of popular music, especially rock ‘n’ roll history, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of people who were “there.” Every legendary artist started small, as even the biggest artists of all time had those early shows before it all blew up, and inexplicably there were people — average everyday people — who were lucky enough to be “there” to see those struggling performers before they turned into superstars.  

Still walking around are those who saw Elvis play local shows in Memphis, Bob Dylan play coffee houses in New York or, most mind-blowing of all to me, The Beatles play The Cavern Club in Liverpool. For the rest of us, those artists existed bigger than life, playing the biggest stages in the world. Unless you were one of those lucky individuals in The Cavern Club, or The Star Club in Hamburg, they only existed as mega stars, playing the biggest venues the 60’s had to offer. 

We would never get as close or as intimate as those lucky individuals who were there for those early days before they were legends, that is unless you were lucky enough to catch Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at Celebrity Theatre on one of two nights at their Phoenix stop on the tour. The Celebrity Theatre is a rare wonder that has no such thing as a “bad seat,” with its smaller intimate setting in the round with a rotating stage dead-center. It is certainly the most up-close anyone is likely to get to any of these legends since they first began their careers in bars and small clubs. 

Celebrity Theatre’s illuminated sign welcoming concertgoers to the sold out Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band show on 5-20-23
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band

The “All-Starr Band” concept was originally conceived in 1989 by Ringo, with the idea that he would put together a band, not just of professional hired guns to help him perform many of his hits across his storied career from The Beatles to his many incredible solo records, but instead pack the band with fellow legendary performers who also had a bottomless well of hits from which to pull. 

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band
Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Over the years, the Ringo’s All-Starr Band has included members of The Band, Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, The Eagles, The Who, Dr. John, Todd Rundgren, Peter Frampton, and the “fifth Beatle” Mr. Billy Preston. This, the 15th iteration of Ringo’s All-Starr Band, included Edgar Winter, Hamish Staurt from Average White Band, Steve Lukather from Toto, and Colin Hay from Men at Work. The band is rounded out with Warren Ham who has played with Kansas and Toto (nice pairing) on saxophone, flute, and keyboards and Gregg Bissonette, who has played with seemingly everyone (seriously, look him up) on all things percussion. 

Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

What of course makes the All-Starr Band so fun is that any given member could step up to the microphone and have enough hits at their disposal to play the show all by themselves. All of this results in a kind of jamboree of fun, as members take turns stepping into the spotlight for a song, only to then pass the spotlight to the next member, as the show rotates around the already rotating stage (if you’ve never been to the Celebrity Theatre, you need to get there for a show). 

Steve Lukather, Warren Ham, Ringo Starr
Steve Lukather, Warren Ham, & Ringo Starr
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Ringo opened the show with a raucous cover of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” a staple of The Beatles early live shows and later showing up as a single off of the Long Tall Sally EP. It was followed by “It Don’t Come Easy,” arguably Ringo’s most soulful vocal performance from his solo records. After blazing through “What Goes On” from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, Ringo seceded the spotlight and moved to the drums. 

Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This began what makes the All-Starr Band concept so much fun every time: each performer taking turns stepping up to the microphone to perform one of their own hits. Leading off was Edgar Winter who played his now 51-year-old hit “Free Ride,” which sounded as fresh and fun that night as it did the first time any of us played it in our cars with the windows down and the volume up.

Edgar Winter
Edgar Winter (Vocalist, Keyboardist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

This was followed by Steve Lukather leading the band through “Roseanna,” with the crowd spiritedly singing along and pumping their fist in time with the chord changes, Hamish Stuart playing a ripping version of Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces,” and Colin Hay taking the band through an extended version of Men At Work’s hit “Down Under” that included a fun call-and-respond with the crowd. “I wrote this song in forty minutes, and it’s sustained me for forty years,” he told the crowd prior to starting the song. 

Steve Lukather
Steve Lukather (Vocalist, Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

At that time, Ringo returned from behind the drum kit for a run through of “Boys,” his first vocal performance on The Beatles first album Please, Please Me, “I’m the Greatest” from Ringo (a song written for him by John Lennon), and “Yellow Submarine,” which a quick scan of the theatre revealed that every generation of fan in attendance — from those who were there from the start with The Beatles to little kids who have since grown up with the band through their parents and grandparents love for them — was joyfully and exuberantly singing along. Following this, as the crowd was still on their feet, cheering and clapping, Ringo waved to the audience and left the stage. “Don’t worry. He’ll be back,” Edgar Winter playfully reassured the crowd. 

Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

With Ringo gone, the band performed Average White Band’s “Cut the Cake,” the title track from their third album. “I’m going to hand it over to Edgar Winter now to unleash the beast,” he said at the song’s closing. Winter’s performance of instrumental classic “Frankenstein” allowed the band to have fun on what turned out to be a jam session that impressively highlighted the drumming skills of Gregg Bissonette. Throughout the song, which stretched to nearly ten minutes, Bissonette worked in drum breaks that steered the song into a range of hits by other artists, including “Come Together” by The Beatles, “Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Led Zeppelin, and appropriately enough, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” — the seventeen-minute Iron Butterfly classic in which the recognizable drumming comes during the lengthy instrumental break in the song. By the end of the jam, Bissonette, very deservedly, got one of the biggest pops from the crowd. 

Gregg Bissonette
Gregg Bissonette (Drummer)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Ringo returned to the stage, and before going into “Octopus’s Garden” (rivaling “Yellow Submarine” for one of the most crowd-pleasing moments of the night), he introduced each member of the band, heaping praise on them as he did. It was followed by his solo hit “Back Off Boogaloo.” Next up was Colin Hay to perform Men at Work’s ode to anxiety “Overkill.”

Colin Hay (Vocalist, Guitarist)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Every song we’ve played tonight is one you know, but I’d like to debut my 30-minute jazz odyssey,” Steve Lukather joked with the crowd, adding, “If you get really stoned first, you might just get into it,” before launching into “Africa” — Toto’s mega-smash that will live on for generations to come. The performance featured some incredible backing vocals from Colin Hay. 

Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

After going one more round with each performer, including Hamish Stuart with the Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do,” and Ringo playing The Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Edgar Winter took a moment to pay tribute to his brother Johnny Winter before playing “Johnny B. Goode,” a song the brothers used to play together growing up, as they each first learned to play the guitar. It was immediately followed by Colin Hay playing “Who Can It Be Now?” and Steve Lukather on Toto’s  “Hold the Line.”

Hamish Stuart (Vocalist, Bassist) with Colin Hay and Edgar Winter
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The evening closed as it began, with the tour’s namesake Ringo Starr on vocals for his solo classic “Photograph,” the Johnny Russell hit “Act Naturally”, made famous by Buck Owens and even more famous by The Beatles version on Help!, and finally and very fittingly given the vibe of the tour and the mutual respect and camaraderie amongst the performers, they closed the evening “With a Little Help From My Friends.” As the song came to a close, they shifted to a cover of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” to send the crowd home happy, still singing along in their own acapella as they exited the Celebrity Theatre and out into the warm Phoenix night.

Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer)
| Photography:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

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Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band – Celebrity Theatre 5-20-23

Photography © Mark Greenawalt.
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Styx Continues Their Mission To Rock The World at Celebrity Theatre (1-10-20)

PHOENIX— This day had a solemn beginning as the news announced that the legendary drummer for Rush, Neil Peart, had passed away. Styx keyboardist Lawrence Gowan took the opportunity to pay tribute to his fellow Canadian musician by singing and playing a beautiful acoustic piano cover of “Limelight”. The lyrics pulled at the heartstrings and the chords and melody were hauntingly mesmerizing. As the song faded and commiserating fans’ cheers resounded, Gowan declared, “Thank you for one of the greatest drummers and certainly one of the all-time greatest lyricists, Neil Peart.” This was a highlight of the evening and made this particular show very special. 

Drummer Todd Sucherman provided a link to a fan’s video on Facebook and wrote:

The show kicked off on a high note as the song “Gone, Gone, Gone” electrified the theater-in-the-round. This song also opens the latest Styx studio album, The Mission, which was released two and a half years ago and put Styx back on the radio as it rose to 45 on the Billboard 200. There was no opening act, so Styx had time to unleash all of the “classics” and still sprinkle in a few more songs from The Mission: “Radio Silence”, “Red Storm”, “The Outpost”, and the classically influenced “Khedive” piano piece. Veteran guitarist James “JY” Young hinted at the fact that there may be new Styx music coming our way in 2020. The die-hard Styx fans were thrilled to hear this, but everyone went wild when they launched into the evening of hits, beginning with that classic Hammond organ intro to “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights).”

| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Most bands have a “lead” singer, but at a Styx show, the lead vocals (and bantering duties) are shared between the three frontmen in the band: guitarist Young (original member since the inception of the band in 1972), guitarist Tommy Shaw (who replaced John “J.C.” Curulewski in 1975), and keyboardist Gowan (who replaced Dennis DeYoung in 1999). Replacing DeYoung meant filling some big shoes, since his iconic voice and hit songwriting abilities were equally as important as his talent on the keys. But for the past twenty years, Gowan has held his own with studio albums and touring worldwide. Gowan’s keyboard and vocal skills were put to the test with the next pair of songs penned by DeYoung: “The Grand Illusion” and “Lady.” The keyboards were spot-on. The vocals were noticeably different from DeYoung’s, but very strong, confident, and blended wonderfully with signature Styx harmonies.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocals, Keyboard), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The original rhythm section of Styx was comprised of twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo on bass and drums respectively. Tonight, Chuck would make several guest appearances, but it was Ricky Phillips on the Imola 5-string bass for most of the evening. Phillips was was best known as the bassist for The Babys and later a founding member of Bad English, but then joined the band in 2003. Chuck is still a current member of Styx, but he has limited his playing time due health issues related to HIV. Sucherman has held the drum throne since 1995, taking over for John Panozzo, who was battling cirrhosis of the liver and subsequently passed away in 1996. Gowan introduced Sucherman and mentioned that his mother was in the audience that night, and also dropped a bit of trivia that last year, Modern Drummer Magazine listed him as the number one Classic Rock Drummer in the World.

Todd Sucherman (Drums), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Danny Zelisko had Styx here at the Celebrity Theatre exactly one year ago for a two-night stand and welcomed them back tonight and tomorrow night to do it again. Last year, both nights appeared to be sold out; tonight, there were only a handful of seats that seemed to be open. It is such an intimate venue for seeing a band, and the sound is always crisp and clear. The rotating stage allows more people to feel closer to the front of the stage. The novelty wears off at times when the stage is facing away during a favorite song, but Styx did a pretty good job of running around the stage when they weren’t stationed to a microphone. One notable exception was on the song “Red Storm”, when the stage stopped rotating for the whole song, presumably because Phillips was perched up high on a riser behind the drum set (author’s note – of course, they were facing the other direction from me for this whole song).

As the stage got its groove back, JY stepped up to the mic to introduce the next song. He reminisced about the old days of lighting lighters for certain songs, but conceded that there were dangers. “We can approximate that with the cell phone camera light…” he said, “…Let’s approximate the way those stars might look and LIGHT IT UP EVERYBODY!” It was exhilarating to be immersed in a sea of LED lights throughout the entire theater as the band broke into “Light Up,” one of only two songs played from the Equinox album from 1975 (the other one was “Suite Madame Blue” to top off the first set).

James “JY” Young (Guitar, Vocals, Keys), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Chuck Panozzo made his first appearance on stage during “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man).” He had played the powerful yet simple quarter notes on this Tommy Shaw anthem from The Grand Illusion Album released on 7-7-77. The crowd gave a very warm welcome as Shaw introduced him as “Our original bass player, Mr. Charles Panozzo,” and he stepped into the stage lights looking dapper in a navy blue sports jacket and wielding a black Rickenbacker bass. Instead of leaving the stage, Phillips picked up a double-necked guitar with a 12-string and a 6-string neck and joined in on the massive sound.

Ricky Phillips (Bass, Guitar, Vocals), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

There was a brief 20-minute break before the second set. There was a fundraiser with a giveaway guitar benefiting Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation that was introduced by Tim and NeanderPaul from KSLX radio station.

The second set contained some of the usual suspects from the vault of hit songs, including “Come Sail Away,” “Too Much Time On My Hands,” “Miss America,” and the definitive power ballad “Crystal Ball.” There were also brief reminders to pick up the newest album, which featured “The Outpost” and “Khedive,” but the song that was a pleasant surprise for the evening was the title track from Pieces of Eight. This song is a fan favorite, but was overshadowed by “Renegade” and “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” from that album and was not released as a single. Noticeably absent from the setlist was anything from the Cornerstone album, including their only number one single, “Babe” nor anything from Edge of the Century (“Love is the Ritual” nor “Show Me The Way”, which charted at number three).

Tommy Shaw (Guitar, Vocals), Styx
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The song “Mr. Roboto” had been absent from the setlist for many years although it also charted at number 3. This wasn’t surprising since it may be the defining song that put a rift in the band dynamic. More importantly, it polarized fans into either the rocker camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Renegade” and “Miss America,” or the pop music camp that thought of Styx in terms of “Babe” and “Best of Times.” Fortunately, there is a lot of crossover (or at least no hostilities that lead to disowning the band). What caused more controversy was when the song returned to the setlist a little over a year ago, even though DeYoung wasn’t there to petition for it. The live version is a little amped up, and the good news is that it was well received by fans, finding its way into the coveted encore position.

However, there was still one song left that even “Mr. Roboto” couldn’t upstage and that was the aforementioned “Renegade.” This is the song that starts with soft and haunting vocal by Shaw: “Oh mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.” At this point, everyone’s hand raised to their chest as they mimicked the heart beats that still echo to this day from John Panozzo’s kick drum. There was even a wash of red light over the massive drum set that kept time with these beats. Another line. More heartbeats. Silky three-part harmony for the next line. More heart beats as more of the crowd joined in. More harmonies. One beastial scream and the crowd was in the proverbial palm of their hands as the hardest rocking song of the Styx catalog closed the show.

Styx was flawless. The talent in the band is simply overwhelming. It is so hard for a band that is branded a “classic” rock band to be relevant in a world where “classic rock” stations won’t play anything new from their “classic rock” artist roster. Meanwhile, new rock stations tend to ignore new music from bands that are considered classics. Yet Styx has maintained a growing fan base by continuing to be road warriors and taking the music to every corner of the planet, continuing to write and record music that is true to their roots and diverse style. 

Check out The Mission to form your own opinion if you haven’t heard it yet. Here’s to great new music from them in 2020, and hopefully yet another return trip to the Valley of the Sun to see them again.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-10-20


    Set 1

  • Gone, Gone, Gone
  • Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
  • The Grand Illusion
  • Lady
  • Radio Silence
  • Snowblind
  • Red Storm
  • Light Up
  • Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
  • Rockin’ the Paradise
  • Suite Madame Blue
  • Set 2

  • Miss America
  • Crystal Ball
  • Pieces of Eight
  • The Outpost
  • Too Much Time On My Hands
  • Khedive
  • Limelight (Piano/Vocal Tribute To Neil Peart)
  • Come Sail Away
  • Encore:

  • Mr. Roboto
  • Renegade

Photography © Mark Greenawalt
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Toto’s “40 Trips Around the Sun” Takes Them to Circle Inside Celebrity Theatre (9-21-19)

PHOENIX — Toto’s “40 Trips Around the Sun” world tour in support of last year’s eponymous greatest hits collection, and in celebration of their milestone 40th anniversary, came to the Celebrity Theatre. The theatre’s circular structure with its round center stage means there’s not a bad seat in the house, with every spot offering a close vantage point. This was perfect for the night’s show because it removed the feeling of barriers from the fans who so love a band that so clearly loves their fans in return. 

Joseph Williams (Lead Vocals), Toto
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Before the show started, the audience was promised that it was going to be two hours long, “with no opening act and no intermission,” and that we wouldn’t want to miss a minute — practically an understatement for the night to come. This tour has been a well-earned victory lap for Toto. The audience was not only filled with long-time fans, but also with younger fans who were new to the band; finding them through an occurrence of events starting just as they were making plans for the then-upcoming release and tour. 

Toto’s signature song, and most enduring hit, “Africa” features one of pop music’s greatest hooks: “I bless the rains down in Africa.” A perfect storm occurred on the cusp of Toto’s 40th anniversary that reignited them, restored their proper place in popular culture, and reminded everyone exactly how incredible of a band they have always been. In December of 2017, nearly two months to the day before Toto would release their career-spanning greatest hits collection, a young Weezer fan began tweeting the band asking them to cover Toto’s “Africa.” When Weezer finally relented and performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live, with a guest appearance from Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, a new generation of fans flocked to Toto to discover what so many of us already knew: Toto is one of pop music’s most consistent bands, churning out catchy, crowd-pleasing songs for 40 years. 

As soon as Toto emerged on the ramp and took their spots at their instruments at 8 o’clock, the energy they brought to the round stage in the center of the theatre was palpable. The show’s opening number was “Devil’s Tower,” a previously unreleased gem originally recorded during the sessions for Toto IV but left off. It felt fresh and immediately energized the crowd that was ready to pop in anticipation of Toto’s arrival.

| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The second song of the set, “Hold the Line,” from their self-titled debut, brought the crowd to their feet for the first of many times in the night. It was during this moment that the stage began to rotate, as they played through a rolling wave of audience members singing the chorus of “Hold the line, love isn’t always on time.” What made this moment truly special was to see the fans in attendance who had been with the band for all 40 of those trips around the sun, singing the song alongside their own children, who are new converts. 

Band Lineup:

  • Joseph Williams:
    Lead Vocals
  • Steve Lukather:
    Guitar and Vocals
  • Steve Porcaro:
  • Lenny Castro:
  • Warren Ham:
    Saxophone, Harmonica, and Flute
  • Shannon Forrest:
  • Shem von Schroeck:
  • Dominique “Xavier” Taplin:

Keeping with the tour’s mission statement, Toto’s setlist was a journey through their history with stops at every album along the way. “Lovers in the Night,” from their 1982 landmark album Toto IV, was followed by the brand new track “Alone” from last year’s greatest hits collection; a song whose foot-tapping rhythm seated it firmly alongside so many of their classic songs. 

After runs through “I Will Remember” from 95’s Tambu and “English Eyes” from 81’s Turn Back, they cut loose on the extended bluesy jam of “Jack to the Bone” from 92’s Kingdom Of Desire. With the crowd energized, and the musicians clearly having a good time on stage, they next went into “Rosanna,” also from Toto IV, and arguably Toto’s second biggest hit. With the stage turning, and the crowd rocking, singer Joseph Williams made stops with each part of the crowd to let them have their moment to sing the infectious chorus “Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna, yeah.” They kept the song going well past its album length, so that everyone had a chance to have their moment with the band. 

Joseph Williams (Lead Vocals), Toto
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

As “Rosanna” closed out, chairs were brought out on stage, and the show took an intimate turn, as members told stories of the origins of a couple of the songs, in a style reminiscent of VH1’s classic series Storytellers. Founding member Steve Lukather told the story of keyboard player David Paich writing “Georgy Porgy,” and though Lukather at first thought the song was a little silly, it ended up being the first vocal he recorded for Toto and one of the staples of their live shows ever since. 

Next, keyboardist Porcaro told the story of picking his daughter up from school, on the same day Toto was recording “Africa,” and she was crying because a boy had pushed her off the slide. As he drove her home, she asked him repeatedly through her tears, “Why?,” and though he tried his best to explain to her that the boy probably liked her, she kept asking “Why?” By the time he dropped her off and got back to the studio, her question of “Why?” had given way to a chorus of, “Why? Why? It’s only human nature,” and would turn into the song “Human Nature” written by Porcaro and performed by Michael Jackson on his album Thriller. On this night, they played a lush rendition of the song, with Porcaro singing the words inspired by his heartbroken daughter. 

Dominique “Xavier” Taplin (Keys), Warren Ham (Vox), Shem von Schroeck (Bass), Steve Lukather (Guitar), Steve Porcaro (Keys); Toto
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

At this point, the chairs went away, and the musicians ran through the thematically-linked 1-2-3 punch of “I’ll Be Over You,” “No Love,” and “Stop Loving You,” before all members briefly left the stage. Meanwhile, touring keyboard player Dominique “Xavier” Taplin, filling in for original member David Paich, played what initially felt like a piano interlude but gave way to a longer, beautiful arrangement that left the crowd in awe. Taplin had previously played in Prince’s last touring band and this solo piano performance made it evident why Prince had enlisted his talents. 

“Lion” from 1981’s Isolation was followed by a brief story of writing music for the David Lynch film Dune and trying to make the music sound “as David Lynchian” as they could. The ensuing performance of “Dune (Desert Theme”), so fitting for Arizona’s own dry landscape, showed the song was vintage Toto, even if they were trying to make it sound Lynchian. Lukather talked briefly of their 2002 album Through the Looking Glass, a collection of cover songs by artists that had either influenced the band early on or of whom they were fans. Identifying George Harrison as both his first guitar hero and later his friend, Lukather led them in a cover of The White Album classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that both paid loving tribute and also featured some Toto flourishes, including Lukather adding an extended guitar solo to the end of the song. 

Steve Lukather (Guitar, Vocals), Toto
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

After playing “Make Believe,” them gave the crowd the moment they wanted: “Africa.” It should be noted here that song’s reputation is well-earned, as it is indeed truly a pop masterpiece. On a night where it was obvious how much fun Toto was having on the tour, this was the moment you could tell they relished the most. The performance was note-perfect, and set up the final moment of goodwill and love between a band and their audience, as they turned the singing over, giving the crowd one more chance to come together and show their love for Toto. With everyone on their feet, singing and dancing, Toto played on but stepped back from their mics, and the audience took the final chorus. One by one, the founding members left the stage, leaving the touring members to keep the groove going, while the crowd sang on. Percussionist Lenny Castro, who has played with Toto from their early days, took the lead on congas to accompany the crowd. 

Lenny Castro (Drums), Toto
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

When Toto returned to the stage for the encore, a rollicking performance of “Home of the Brave” from a 1988’s The Seventh One, the end of the show and the band’s choice for a closer felt like a parting piece of advice to the crowd. Just as Toto has made their 40 trips around the sun, staying true to the ethos they established for themselves on trip number one in 1978, this moment was a reminder to all to keep themselves moving forward with each of their trips, and that we are in charge of our future and our fate with the show’s final lyrics: “You gotta remember, you don’t have to be afraid. You still have the freedom to learn and say what you wanna say. You gotta remember, don’t let ’em take away the land we call the home of the brave.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Toto – Celebrity Theatre 9-21-19


  • “Devil’s Tower”
  • “Hold the Line”
  • “Lovers in the Night”
  • “Alone”
  • “I Will Remember”
  • “English Eyes”
  • “Jack to the Bone”
  • “Roseanna”
  • “Georgie Porgy”
  • “Human Nature” (Michael Jackson cover)
  • “I’ll Be Over You”
  • “No Love”
  • “Stop Loving You”
  • “Goodbye Girl”
  • “Lion”
  • “Dune (Desert Theme)”
  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (Beatles cover)
  • “Make Believe”
  • “Africa”
  • “Home of the Brave”

Band Lineup:

  • Joseph Williams: Lead Vocals
  • Steve Lukather: Guitar and Vocals
  • Steve Porcaro: Keyboards
  • Lenny Castro: Percussion
  • Warren Ham: Saxophone, Harmonica, and Flute
  • Shannon Forrest: Drums
  • Shem von Schroeck: Bass
  • Dominique “Xavier” Taplin: Keyboards

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Ringo — An All Starr Band Lead by a True Starr at Celebrity Theatre (8-26-19)

Phoenix, AZ — On June 26 of this year, Sir Paul McCartney brought an evening of legendary music to Talking Stick Resort Arena. Exactly two months later, Ringo Starr became the second Beatle to grace the stages of Arizona. This is the 30-year anniversary of this touring rock supergroup, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, with a shifting lineup that has included legends such as Joe Walsh, Todd Rungren, Clarence Clemons, Peter Frampton, John Entwhistle, and so many more (see list below). Starr is really the only constant member.

This year’s line up is no exception to Starr’s history of building a stellar lineup:

  • The dueling guitarists were the unlikely pairing of Steve Lukather (Toto) and Colin Hay (Men At Work). These two master songwriters brought along their biggest hits to add to the already incredible setlist. Fans were treated to Toto’s “Rosanna”, “Africa”, and “Hold The Line” and Men At Work’s “Down Under”, “Overkill”, and of course “Who Can It Be Now.”
  • On the Hammond organ was none other than Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey) who chipped in the classic Santana songs “Evil Ways”, “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen”, and “Oye Como Va”, but unfortunately nothing from his days with Journey.
  • Bassist Hamish Stuart (Average White Band) was back after his stint in the lineup from 2006 to 2008. He switched over to guitar when the band dove into the Average White Band standards “Pick Up The Pieces” and “Cut The Cake.”
  • Gregg Bissonette on drums and Warren Ham on… well, everything else (saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion, etc.) rounded out the lineup. Both have toured extensively with major recording acts, such as Bissonette’s time with “Diamond” David Lee Roth during the “Eat ‘Em And Smile” era, and Ham’s contributions to Kansas and Toto (now that’s an ironic combo of band names).
Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

All that talent on the revolving stage of the Celebrity Theater culminated in the focal point of the evening; a man who’s former band is arguably the most famous band in the history of rock & roll. And yes, Starr brought a few songs to the setlist from his days with the Fab Four, starting with the only song credited to Lennon–McCartney–Starkey, “What Goes On.” Ringo Starr is the stage name of Sir Richard Starkey, knighted by Prince William on March 20, 2018. The two most popular Beatles songs that featured Starr’s voice where the whimsical “Yellow Submarine” and the song he sang in the guise of the one-and-only Billy Shears, “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

Ringo Starr
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Starr’s credentials make him a legendary musician, but he seemed very unassuming. There was no fabricated swagger or false bravado in his delivery. He was reverent of the talent of his bandmates while clearly letting loose to have fun on stage.  Even his attire hinted at high fashion with a jacket and black leather pants, but they were offset by a pair of comfortable sneakers and a rhinestone shirt that said “Peace Rocks”. The peace sign proved to be a prevalent theme throughout the show, from holding up the hand sign for peace to wearing peace necklaces. Starr looked spry and healthy wearing his signature sunglasses and sporting the kempt beard and mustache.  Though he is 79 years old, there was nothing lethargic or geriatric about this performance. It was quite the opposite: an energetic and youthful performance from start to finish.

Ringo Starr (Vocalist), Hamish Stuart (Bassist), Steve Lukather (Guitarist) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Although there are some Ringo Starr hits embroidered in the fabric of our collective memory, it takes a show like this to remind us of just how many there have been. Eight songs from his solo career broke the top 10 in the US charts and two hit number one (“You’re Sixteen” and “Photograph”). Between 1970 and 2017, Ringo has released 19 solo studio records. The second song of the set started the audience down memory lane with “It Don’t Come Easy” from the 1975 album Blast From Your Past.

Gregg Rolie (Keyboardist, Vocalist), Steve Lukather (Guitarist, Vocalist), Ringo Starr (Vocalist, Drummer) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Starr shared the spotlight and lead vocal duties with the singers that made their respective songs famous. It was like a karaoke dream where everyone sounded exactly like the record. One highlight was hearing Rolie breathing life into “Black Magic Woman,” and then hearing Lukather shredding on the soulful solos of Carlos Santana, was magical. As the song transitioned to “Gypsy Queen”, it was Gregg Bissonette’s turn to shine as he vamped on the drumset.

A majority of the crowd were old enough to remember the quirky videos of Men At Work on MTV’s heavy rotation in the early 80’s. There were possibly a handful of people that didn’t recognize Colin Hay playing guitar on stage, but everyone recognized that distinctive voice singing “I come from the land down under,” Ham obviously broke out the flute to play the infectious solo on “Down Under” and then later in the show played the famous sax line on “Who Can It Be Now.”

Steve Lukather (Guitarist), Warren Ham (Saxophone), Ringo Starr (Vocalist) –
Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

While out of the spotlight, Starr was still an archetypal presence as he rose to his drum throne and commandeered the instrument that he is best known for. The bass drum of his Ludwig drum kit that once sported The Beatles logo, now has a symbolic star and lotus flower logo, presumably in support of the Ringo Starr Art Lotus Foundation.

Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drumkit
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

Being the drummer in the back typically garners less notoriety, especially when you’re standing on the shoulders of giants like Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. But throughout his career, he has received 9 Grammys, and has twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first as a Beatle and then as a solo artist. Starr played in perfect synchronicity with Bissonette and reminded all of the musicians in the room why he is considered by many to be included in the category of best rock drummer of all time.

Ringo Starr
| Photographer:
Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved

The wonderful evening of hit music was capped off with a resounding message of peace when Ringo and the boys joined in on the anthem “Give Peace A Chance,” the anti-war chant that John Lennon and Yoko Ono voiced 50 years ago from room 1742 that still needs to be heard today.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band – Celebrity Theatre 8-26-19

Setlist for the Evening

  • Matchbox (Carl Perkins)
  • It Don’t Come Easy (Ringo Starr)
  • What Goes On (The Beatles)
  • Evil Ways (Willie Bobo with Gregg Rolie)
  • Rosanna (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band with Hamish Stuart)
  • Down Under (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Boys (The Shirelles)
  • Don’t Pass Me By (The Beatles)
  • Yellow Submarine (The Beatles with ‘Day Tripper’ tease intro by Steve Lukather)
  • Cut the Cake (Average White Band with Hamish Stuart)
  • Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen (with Gregg Rolie)
  • You’re Sixteen (Johnny Burnette)
  • Anthem (Ringo Starr)
  • Overkill (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Africa (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Work to Do (The Isley Brothers with Hamish Stuart)
  • Oye como va (Tito Puente with Gregg Rolie)
  • I Wanna Be Your Man (The Beatles)
  • Who Can It Be Now? (Men at Work with Colin Hay)
  • Hold the Line (Toto with Steve Lukather)
  • Photograph (Ringo Starr)
  • Act Naturally (Buck Owens)
  • With a Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles with ‘Give Peace a Chance’ by Plastic Ono Band chorus at the end)

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All Starr Band Alumni

  • Joe Walsh (1989-1992, various guest appearances from 1992 onwards)
  • Nils Lofgren (1989-1992, opening act for various 1995 shows and made a guest appearance in 2013)
  • Dr. John (1989, guest appearance in 2008)
  • Billy Preston (1989, 1995)
  • Rick Danko (1989)
  • Levon Helm (1989, guest appearance in 2008)
  • Clarence Clemons (1989)
  • Jim Keltner (1989, guest appearance in 2010)
  • Todd Rundgren (1992, 1999, 2012-2016)
  • Dave Edmunds (1992, 2000)
  • Burton Cummings (1992)
  • Timothy B. Schmit (1992, guest appearance in 1997)
  • Zak Starkey (1992-1995, guest appearance in 1989 and 2010)
  • Timmy Cappello (1992, 1999)
  • Randy Bachman (1995)
  • Mark Farner (1995, guest appearance in 1997)
  • Felix Cavaliere (1995)
  • John Entwistle (1995)
  • Mark Rivera (1995-2003, 2012-2013, guest appearance in 2011)
  • Peter Frampton (1997-1998)
  • Gary Brooker (1997-1999)
  • Jack Bruce (1997-2000)
  • Simon Kirke (1997-2000, guest appearance in 2003)
  • Scott Gordon (1998)
  • Eric Carmen (2000)
  • Roger Hodgson (2001)
  • Ian Hunter (2001)
  • Howard Jones (2001)
  • Greg Lake (2001)
  • Sheila Escovedo (2001-2006)
  • Colin Hay (2003, 2008)
  • Paul Carrack (2003)
  • John Waite (2003)
  • Billy Squier (2006-2008, guest appearance in 2014)
  • Richard Marx (2006)
  • Edgar Winter (2006-2011)
  • Rod Argent (2006)
  • Hamish Stuart (2006-2008)
  • Gary Wright (2008-2011)
  • Gregg Bissonette (2008-present)
  • Wally Palmar (2010)
  • Rick Derringer (2010)
  • Richard Page (2010-present)
  • Steve Lukather (2012-present)
  • Gregg Rolie (2012-present)
  • Warren Ham (2012-present)

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Styx Rocking In The Round, Their First Night at Celebrity Theatre (1-11-19)

PHOENIX — Celebrity Theatre was a fitting venue for the return of Styx to the Valley for a two night engagement on January 11th and 12th. Located at 32nd Street and Fillmore, the legendary theatre in the round has hosted the cream of music royalty since it first opened as the Phoenix Star Theatre in 1964. The unique circular, rotating stage and intimate atmosphere have made the Celebrity a staple music hall in Phoenix for nearly six decades. Not one seat in the venue is more than 70 feet from the stage.

The show on January 11th started a little late, most likely a result of the parking delays. The line of cars snaking southbound down the right lane of 32nd street moved at a snail’s pace leading up to the entrance. Folks of all stripes were milling around the theater, ordering drinks and chatting excitedly under the catwalk above the stage. Others lingered outside, chain smoking or vaping, listening for a sign to run back inside for the start of the concert.

From their humble Chicago beginnings in the early 1970’s, to their outlandish high production theatrical arena shows of the 80’s, Styx has been a familiar voice on the radio for generations, with a career spanning over half a century. As the first band to have four triple platinum albums in a row, they are an integral part of the soundtrack of many people’s lives. Their importance to rock music as a whole has been unfairly marginalized for years, and in the words of Julian ‘Frankenstein’ McGrath from Big Daddy (1999), only catching “a bad rap because most critics are cynical assholes.”

The current lineup includes veteran Tommy Shaw on lead guitar, with founding members James “J.Y.” Young and Chuck Panozzo on guitar and bass respectively, with Chuck performing on a more limited basis. Chuck’s twin brother and co-founding member of Styx, John Panozzo, originally played drums, but sadly died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1996. Since then, Todd Sucherman has been the band’s drummer. Playing backing guitar, bass, and vocals is Ricky Phillips of Bad English and The Babys, who joined the band in 2003. Vocalist and keyboard virtuoso Lawrence Gowan is a high-energy showman, but you would have to be in order to replace estranged former frontman Dennis DeYoung, as he did in 1999. A band with a history as rich as Styx merits such a historic venue as Celebrity Theatre.

The house lights suddenly dimmed, eliciting hoots and cheers from the audience. As soon as the spotlights kicked on, the band flew right into “Gone Gone Gone from their latest album The Mission, released in mid-2017. From the first frenzied notes played on the dueling guitars, the crowd was on their feet. Fans young and old danced in the aisles while others rushed to their seats, full beers in hand. The song does not sound at all unlike the old Styx — high-energy and fun.

Not a moment after the first tune ended, the iconic organ riff of “Blue Collar Man” sternly commanded the grateful crowd’s attention.  Each band member’s precision assured the crowd that Styx had not lost a step from their golden age.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocalist) and Ricky Phillips (Bassist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Next was their hit “The Grand Illusion”, the title track from their 1977 album. Every flawless note rang out true to the recording, and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that: Styx is a band that is perpetually on tour. According to the band themselves, they only take occasional breaks for short periods. Anybody touring that frequently is going to perform their catalogue masterfully.

After performing “Fooling Yourself,” Gowan spoke: “What a wonderful way to ring in the new year!” Standing at the foot of the stage, he remarked, “My, you’re all so close,” as he addressed the theater’s intimate layout.

The spotlight settled on him at the keyboard as and an iconic piano riff pierced the crowd, igniting their collective nostalgia. “Lady” is one of those songs that everyone imagines will be playing in the background when they lay their eyes on their soulmate for the first time. Again, it’s eerie how well Gowan embodies Dennis DeYoung, both vocally and instrumentally. It was not the first song the whole theater sang in unison, nor would it be the last.

Lawrence Gowan (Vocalist, Keyboardist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

When Shaw approached the mic, he explained the origins of their 16th album, The Mission, before introducing “Radio Silence” for the waiting ears of all in attendance. The opening synth has that instantly recognizable Styx DNA. That this was not a radio single is baffling. In fact, Shaw himself has expressed frustration with the neglect that great classic rock bands experience in the new age of the music industry. It is almost prophetic of the band that you cannot hear a song called “Radio Silence” on the radio. It is a fantastic track and deserves more attention.

The next tune was off of 1975’s Equinox. “Lorelei” seems like one of those songs that everyone knows but has no idea what it is called or who sings it, like an old friend you ate lunch with at work, but never learned their name. Young absolutely nails the lead vocals in place of DeYoung’s  studio recording. Another striking revelation was that the bands harmonies were pristine. These are men in their early to late sixties, the oldest being founding member Panozzo at seventy years old.

Ricky Phillips (Bassist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Shortly after “Lorelei”, Shaw recalled a conversation he had with Young in 1975, and explained how he came to join the band. Taking Young up on his offer to come to Chicago, Shaw brought a song he had been working on. It was a great song, but “it wasn’t a Styx song” according to Young, who Shaw calls “The Godfather of Styx”. From that story, the audience learned how “Crystal Ball” was written, and Shaw was only too happy to demonstrate how beautiful his two-tone sunburst Fender 12-string acoustic sounds. With impeccable timing, a roadie hopped up onto the stage to hand over a Les Paul for the solo before swapping the Jumbo back for the outro.

As expected, the band played a couple more hits with “Light Up” and “Man in the Wilderness” before closing out the first half of the show with another anthem from the Paradise Theater album, “Rockin’ the Paradise.” It wasn’t long before the house lights came back up for a short intermission, when Young promised another hour of music after they returned.

The second half of the show kicked off with another Young-led hit from The Grand Illusion, “Miss America.” Styx is currently rehearsing for a special show in Las Vegas where they will play the entire The Mission album from start to finish. Fans attending this show were treated to a sampling of what is to come when they debuted six of those songs in order from the second half of the album. The suite of songs began with “Time May Bend” and continued through “The Outpost” and this night was the first time they had ever been performed live. They even welcomed the album’s producer and co-writer, Will Evankovich on stage to contribute to the instrumentation and vocals.

Tommy Shaw (Guitarist, Vocalist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

Eventually a roadie produced Shaw’s vintage Fender Electric XII and it’s a dead giveaway to the guitar-savvy fans that “Suite Madame Blue” was coming, and it was impeccably played from start to finish. Immediately after, the fans were finally treated to what many were waiting for… “Too Much Time On My Hands” (watch the Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon shot-for-shot remake) from 1981’s Paradise Theater. The maniacal keyboard part of the song is indicative of the genius that Dennis DeYoung endowed upon the group; however, this does not imply they are lacking anything from his departure. This band is so well-oiled that his absence is hardly noticeable.

As the applause died down, most of the band left the stage, but Gowan remained and took the spotlight to turn the venue into a “piano bar” with a pair of fantastic covers. The first was a phenomenally accurate rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” for the appreciative audience. The second cover was a beautiful recitation of the intricate operatic section of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and the entire crowd once again sang along to every word. They are truly a fortunate group to have stumbled across such a talented frontman. Gowan alone should be a major factor for anyone even considering going to a Styx show. He alone is absolutely worth the cost of admission.

Still alone on stage, Gowen started into the piano intro to possibly their most famous hit, Come Sail Away, which was also featured on The Grand Illusion. The band shuffled back out to bring it home and it seemed to be the perfect crescendo to end the show with, guitars blazing and fans jumping up and down. As the last note is struck from the guitars, and the last cymbal smashed, the band removed their straps and handed off their instruments to the roadies while they made their way off the stage before turning around amid the raucous applause and walking right back out for an encore.

To thunderous applause, they opened back up with “Mr. Roboto,” the drum fills echoing throughout the small space with noticeably fewer audience members, many of whom ran out to their vehicles when they believed the show was over. This is a big deal for one simple reason: They had never performed this song on stage with the full band before this tour. Previously, Dennis DeYoung had always sung a version of it with pre-recorded tracks. Once he left, the band abandoned it for the following decades. The fact that they are playing it as an encore now is kind of ironic.

James “J.Y.” Young (Guitarist), Styx
Photography: Mark Greenawalt © All Rights Reserved.

The fitting final number of the evening was the signature rocker song “Renegade”, Shaw’s self-penned hit from 1979’s Pieces of Eight.

“Oh, mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law…”

The acapella opening lines beckoned the crowd once more to accompany the band, offering a fitting and crowd-unifying conclusion to a consistently powerful and nostalgic evening with a gargantuan pillar of classic rock. As any great performers are wont to do, Styx left the Phoenix audience delighted and fulfilled, yet eager for more. Fans might have had their thirst satiated if they bought tickets to the show the following night at the same venue. And if the rock gods will it, perhaps Arizona will be graced with a future performance from the legendary American musical mainstay.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Mark Greenawalt

Styx – Celebrity Theatre 1-11-19

Photography © Mark Greenawalt. All Rights Reserved