IT WOULD BE difficult to conjure a more powerful image of the aging of rock and roll: Ringo Starr, the drummer for the legendary Beatles, performing at Westbury Music Fair, host to Paul Anka, Tom Jones and other graying stars gently making their way to pasture.
But the adulation that greeted Ringo was nearly as intense as if it were the '60s again, as he sprinted onto Westbury's revolving stage Sunday night, flashing peace signs and singing "It Don't Come Easy." There were no swooning teenage girls, but matronly screeches reverberated through the circular hall almost as loudly as the adolescent squeals of yore.
This was strictly a nostalgia event. Although Ringo unabashedly plugged his latest album, "Vertical Man," as "fabulous," the only tune he performed from it was the Beatles chestnut "Love Me Do."
Instead, the set list was filled with early Fab Four faves and his own jaunty hits from the '70s, from "Yellow Submarine" (one of the night's biggest sing-alongs) to "Photograph" to "You're Sixteen" to "Act Naturally" to, of course, "With a Little Help From My Friends." There was no Bob Dylan guess-what-song-I've-rearranged-now game; Ringo and his five All-Starrs played the tunes as they were originally released, complete with Beatles hooks and harmonies.
Looking trim and fit, with Lennonesque shades and closely cropped gray hair and beard, the ever-affable Ringo alternated between singing in his appealing, if occasionally off-tune, Liverpudlian baritone and banging out his trademark slaphappy backbeat on his drum kit.
He frequently passed the spotlight to his All-Starrs, most of them classic rockers who heightened the nostalgia by playing hits from the bands from which they'd sprung.
The All-Starrs have gone through numerous configurations over the years, but the current mix was strong, even though guitarist Joe Walsh, Ringo's longtime collaborator, dropped out at the last minute to prepare for an upcoming Eagles tour.
Ably filling his shoes was pop technocrat Todd Rundgren, who, with mirrored shades, dyed white streaks in his long hair, and a black T-shirt that declared "DIE YUPPIE SCUM," was the only one who still looked like a rocker.
Rundgren's pop hit "I Saw The Light" was just as sappy as it was back in '72. But he and Jack Bruce, the bassist and co-vocalist for Cream, cranked up the rock psychedelia with dazzling results on the old Cream hits "White Room" and "Sunshine of Your Love." The latter turned into a jam that, if not Cream strength, was nevertheless classic '60s.
Former Procol Harum frontman and keyboardist Gary Brooker delivered irresistibly foot-stomping barrelhouse blues with "Whiskey Train," but it was his organ-fueled "Whiter Shade of Pale" that sent the boomer crowd into ecstacy. Drummer Simon Kirke, who often beat his skins in unison with Ringo, produced another sing-along with "Allright Now," his hit with Free.
Ringo, 58, cracked frequent jokes, including several about Westbury's revolving stage: "I've just made some friends over there," he quipped, gesturing in one direction, "and they'll be strangers by the time I come back."
Not likely. Given Ringo's staying power, they will still meet him, they will still greet him, when he's 64. Or even 74.