REVIEW: Big-hearted Rod Stewart pays tribute to Ukraine as he wows at Aberdeen’s P&J Live

It was a show of homage from start to finish as Sir Rod Stewart brought his biggest hits to Aberdeen, paying tribute to friends, causes and his music along the way.

Beginning with Rod’s pals, support act Johnny Mac and the Faithful, the Glasgow-based celtic rock outfit were introduced by Rod himself. The stage was set for an evening of upbeat entertainment with the lead singer doing a “slosh” of sorts accompanied by his superb boorie of musicians.

An energetic performance by support act Johnny Mac and The Faithful. Image by Darrell Benns / DC Thomson.

The main man

However, if the mood was jovial before Sir Rod donned the stage in his gold lamé dinner jacket, there was tangible delirium afterwards.

Arriving to a bagpipe-infused Robert Palmer-esque Addicted to Love complete with blonde instrument-playing bombshells, a great night was about to be had.

In the spirit of Robert Palmer the opening number was Addicted to Love. Image by Darrell Benns / DC Thomson.

A two-hour, 24-song line up was promised, and not a minute was wasted. Creative backdrops showcased Rod throughout the years, while a semi-circular big screen set up, kept the not-quite-full room close to the action.

Wearing outfit one of five, Sir Rod Stewart took to the stage at P&J Live in Aberdeen. Photo by Darrell Benns / DC Thomson.

However, if empty spaces were the elephant in the room, Rod addressed it head on. “No wonder we haven’t sold out,” he laughed, “you all hate me because I support Celtic.”

It wouldn’t be the only football reference. Dressed head to toe in red he talked about visiting Pittodrie… but finished off by goading any Dons fans with a mention of how many points ahead his team are.

Kind-hearted tributes

Twistin’ the Night Away and First Cut is the Deepest led into crowd-pleasing classics like Maggie May with Rod’s trademark “just gargled with gravel” tones front and centre.

Saxophone solos, a harpist, fiddles and a veritable orchestra accompanied the 77-year-old as he journeyed through his musical years.

Flamboyant Rod Stewart in action. Photo by Dylan Morrison.

Then came his personal tribute to Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. I’d Rather Go Blind, dedicated to “Chrissy”, made way for a stunning drum section led by his line-up of backing singers come dancer-musicians.

The tributes continued after the third of five costume changes. Sir Rod came back on wearing blue and yellow, “the colours of Ukraine.” This time dedicating Rhythm of My Heart to President Zelenskyy and the people of his country. The crowd was encouraged to watch the screens as powerful war imagery accompanied the popular song.

More poignant moments were to come with anti-apartheid and American civil rights photos, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Junior, projected behind Rod’s version of Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready.

‘We want more…’

Have I Told You Lately prefaced Da You Think I’m Sexy – but as the crowd, including former Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, took to their feet it looked like disappointment could ensue.

For half way through he ditched it. “I’m sick of singing that one,” said Rod, opting instead for an arena-rousing rendition of Baby Jane.

Giving his all to his Aberdeen crowd, Sir Rod Stewart. Image by Darrell Benns / DC Thomson.

With everyone now fully in party mode and “Rod, be my sugar daddy” being yelled from the bleachers, he started preparing his audience for the show’s impending finish.

All good things must come to an end

Sailing – including his all-female front line wearing captain’s hats and sequins – took the tempo back down to close the show – but only for a second.

Chants of “we want more” beckoned the curtain back up and Stay With Me provided the welcome encore.

He didn’t disappoint: Rod Stewart in Aberdeen. Picture by Darrell Benns / DC Thomson.

Always popular in Aberdeen, the Scot-loving rocker didn’t disappoint. If anything his big-hearted tributes, his passionate performance, all alongside the superbly talented band of musicians and singers, exceeded expectations.

And the atmosphere? “Better than the Hydro”, according to the women behind who had followed him round the country.

Not bad Aberdeen. Not bad.

OOH LA LA 

Rod Stewart rocks Glasgow with career spanning set in front of packed Hydro

Things are bleak. The world is teetering on the brink of a major recession, energy prices are sky h high, and we’re likely to be working well into our 70s. 

In that respect, Rod Stewart the 77-year-old rocker, could be seen as something of a trend setter.

 
 

Though unlike Sir Rod, most of us won’t be grafting to rebuild after a string of eye-watering divorces. Or selling out arena tours while we’re at it.

Tonight, Glasgow’s Hydro is packed and the band hit the ground running launching into a version of Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love.

The opener sets the tone for what is a full on Vegas-style cabaret show. His backing band, and dancers, shimmer amid a sea of sequins and lamé, in what seems to be a nod to Palmer’s video.

As Scottish as a saveloy, the London-raised rocker has become one of the biggest selling acts of all time while managing to evade a sense of cool for almost his entire career.

But tonight that lack of cool really doesn’t seem to matter.

Sir Rod makes no bones about being a nostalgia act, or glitter coated karaoke for the more cynical. And his routine, unlike his dad dancing, is polished. 

“I’ve been looking at the setlist from three years ago and trying to put some new numbers in…well, none of my numbers are new,” he tells the crowd before a faultless version of Ooh La La.

Yet despite the well-worn patter all is not quite perfect. He’s forced to restart a Ron Wood number after fumbling his lines telling the crowd “I’ve f***** it up. Shall I start from the beginning?”

But all is forgiven.

He has the adopted hometown crowd in the palm of his hand, with the maws, and (slightly) younger fans, dancing in their seats. 

The set, much like Stewart’s career, veers from the credible to the toe curling but it is a feel good show in an era which feels anything but good.

There are costume changes. From a silver jacket, to striped shirt, and even a fetching zebra print combo. But it's not always for aesthetic purposes. At one point Sir Rod emerges in a yellow blazer and blue shirt before dedicating Rhythm of My Heart to the “brave people of the Ukraine”.

His band too are handed their moment to shine. Faultless versions of Hot Stuff and Call Me to allow the auld bhoy a well-earned breather.

There are many sides to Sir Rod. 

The knight of the realm, the hellraiser and the bloke who turns up in Glasgow pubs pulling pints after Celtic games

It’s perhaps the juxtaposition of his heritage, born the son of a Leith builder, with what he’s become, a very British slice of establishment, that still endears him. 

Fast approaching his 78th year tonight Sir Rod is in full swing. 

His set weaves effortlessly from his Faces days to a string of songbook standards.

There are stories. Before the garish brilliance of Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? Sir Rod shows a spandex clad picture of himself in New York’s Studio 54 “where I did naughty things”, and he tells the crowd how Olivia Newton John checked out his outfit before saying she was done with those kind of trousers.

An acoustic version of You’re In My Heart is performed in front of a backdrop of the Lisbon Lions. 

It’s not the only nod to the Parkhead side with both of his drummers’ kits emblazoned with the club crest, while his video screens are decked out with thistles.

But it is the final volley of Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Baby Jane, and curtain caller Stay With Me that allow him to hammer the point home - he’s not done yet.

After the embarrassment of THAT Jubilee performance Sir Rod perhaps felt he had something to prove. 

But, nudging 80, and in fine voice tonight at least - it couldn't be further from the truth.

Music review: Rod Stewart, Hydro, Glasgow

There were plenty of pop hits and misty-eyed crowd-pleasers in Rod Stewart’s Hydro show, but the highlights were the understated renditions of soul standards, writes David Pollock

 

Rod Stewart, Hydro, Glasgow ****

As ever, the Rod Stewart live greatest hits experience landed somewhere between timeless and time-locked. The dress code for women sharing the stage with him appeared to involve blonde hair and short skirts, but these days, rather than being employed as simply backing singers or dancers, the musicians taking part are a perfectly gender-balanced group.

 

“They're all wonderful musicians and they've got great senses of humour,” said Stewart of his female bandmembers. “Which is very important to be in this band.” Nobody was more weirdly sexualised here than the 77-year-old Rod himself, shaking his bum for the camera in zebra-print suit jacket and tight trousers, and no-one seemed more aware that in successfully chasing musical trends for half a century, he might have at times looked somewhat dated.

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? was preceded by an “embarrassing picture of me back in 1979, with my right tit showing” at Studio 54, “where I would go and do naughty things.” His red lycra suit was apparently approved by the late Olivia Newton-John, to whom tribute was paid, alongside a bunch of other socially conscious influences.

The Impressions’ People Get Ready was covered alongside overt reference to its civil rights connections, with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the late Senator John Lewis appearing onscreen, while Rhythm of My Heart’s little-known heritage as a song about the Vietnam War was adapted for the current invasion of Ukraine. “What a guy,” announced Stewart, as an image of Volodomyr Zelenskyy appeared behind him.

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Closer to home, You’re in My Heart honoured the Lisbon Lions (apparently Frank McAvennie was in) and the Irish ballad Grace paid tribute to his own roots, political as well as familial.

Much of the rest of the show wasn’t nearly so deep, taking in pop hits like Young Turks and Baby Jane, misty-eyed crowd-pleasers including Maggie May, Tonight’s the Night and Sailing, and soul standards, which illustrate how, even at an elder age, Stewart’s voice remains strong. The First Cut is the Deepest, I’d Rather Go Blind (despite having to be restarted) and Have I Told You Lately were all given understated renditions, which meant they were among the highlights here.

Rod Stewart shows London’s O2 Arena he is still Forever Young

5 / 5 stars
Rod Stewart - London O2 Arena

After a stirring bagpipe introduction of Scotland The Brave, Rod Stewart opens his set with a slick cover of Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love, as thousands of women swoon in the grand O2 Arena on Friday night.

He’s in high spirits as he grins and teases that “He’ll be the main act for this evening”. Rod warns his adoring fans that he is “Going to have a couple of costume changes throughout the evening”, downplaying the fact that he will eventually have seven or eight changes, chuckling that “Now I’ve got the money I like to have nice stuff!”, which has the the whole place howling. A superb rendition of the old Faces favourite Oh La La is a huge hit with the the audience. 

 

A stunning solo from the saxophonist on Some Guys Get All The Luck steals the show early on in the night. Brilliant backing drumming from his beautiful blonde dancers built into the classic Forever Young and got a huge reception. The timeless cover of Cat Steven’s ballad The First Cut Is The Deepest features a phenomenal violin solo that truly wows the punters.

Rod tells a deeply touching story before  Maggie May, he described that when went it to Number 1 in 1971, his visited his mum and dad in their council house and they all had a cry.

Hyping up the crowd in a sudden change of pace he quips that “I’m ready and willing and able” in a lovely aside between songs. 

As his hugely talented dancers leave the stage he tells them with his cheeky charm to “Behave themselves tonight won’t you!” and observes “What strength, what power, what finesse!” they have. 

 

Halfway through the set and the final song before beginning a purely acoustic run of songs he dedicates his cover Rhythm of My Heart to the Ukrainians, lightening the tone by saying it’s by his good friend “Mark what’s his fucking name”.

This moving song is accompanied by powerful images of war torn Ukraine, with the country’s flag adorning the screens on the stage. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, he jokes that he has “Splashed and out doesn’t mind spending a few bob on a Xmas tree!”.

Mentioning his dancers again he says “One of the girls is pregnant, that brings back memories!”. Proudly paying tribute to his beloved Celtic football team with clips in the screen of their past victories, he snaps “What you f***ing booing for?” as he tells the lively crowd that there will be a “Couple more slow ones then we’ll pick the tempo up and any loose change laying on the stage!”.

A photo of him from 1971 is displayed, wearing trousers he claims are “Inspired by Olivia Newton John, I don’t know maybe they look better on me!.

Penultimate song Sailing is is truly special moment, the chorus sing a along made more evocative by the crashing wave imagery in the background.

A swift exit and return to the stage sees Rod finish with Faces single Stay With Me, topping off an emphatic performance. 

Rod Stewart at the O2 Arena

Sir Rod Stewart began his music career as a busker playing the harmonica, and, as extroverted as he might be, the artist remains humble and down-to-earth. In 1967 he joined the Jeff Beck Group – rhythm and blues being its primary output; he went on to front The Faces, alongside Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones. Simultaneously releasing solo material, Stewart’s early work had an emphasis on folk. This shines through on his solo catalogue, alongside pop, disco and soft rock. Stewart has sold around 250 million albums, placing him among the bestselling artists of all time. 

It’s no mean feat to make London’s sprawling 02 Arena – which has a capacity of 20,000 – somehow feel intimate. The veteran rocker achieves this with ease. Tonight, we are in Rod the Mod’s domain and we’re playing by his rules. This is immediately apparent by the star’s somewhat unorthodox choice to open with a cover: Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love sets the tone for the evening. It’s well known that Stewart performs little of his more recent material. Instead, he opts for crowd pleasers – both his own classic hits and covers of others. 

Tonight, we are treated to an array of hits. You Wear It Well has the audience bopping, while Ooh La La by The Faces drowns the auditorium in nostalgia. Handbags and Gladrags, You’re in My Heart and Forever Young captivate the crooner’s crowd. Do You Think I’m Sexy has everyone moving. 

After performing his revered catalogue for decades now, Stewart shows no signs of simply going through the motions. The star is evidently enjoying himself and the company of his loyal fans. There are even political points made, a screen of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and various anti-war gestures conveyed. Sir Rod himself has taken in a Ukrainian family. 

What makes so many of Stewart’s songs stand out and hold longevity is their storytelling quality: the lyrics carry meaning and hold weight, and his trademark raspy vocals ensure a soulful delivery. With pristine production values, the performer presents an enjoyable evening. While it inevitably lacks the zest of his previous shows, Stewart proves he can still sell out gargantuan stadiums and guarantee a good time for all. The man is close to 78 and, after six decades in the business, has nothing to prove. He might be in the twilight of his career, but he hasn’t lost any of the alluring charm or cool prowess that first put him on the musical map all those years ago. 

The set closes with the late Queen on display. Stewart is fervently patriotic, and still passionate about entertaining. While he might lack the dexterity of yesteryear, this rocker still rocks and we are here for it. 

 

Rod Stewart review — peacock rocker treads line between naff excess and soulful sincerity

 

★★★★☆

The festive season kicked off with a big sparkly bang when Rod Stewart began his two-night residency at the O2 with a marathon banquet of kitsch overload, garish costume changes, cheeky cockney banter, preposterous trousers, bagpipes and footballs and huge singalong anthems. For his first post-Covid London shows, the 77-year-old peacock rocker was flanked by a versatile band and an army of glamorous female backing singers, all young enough to be his daughters. Which, given his reputation, they may well be.

Stewart gave up challenging his fans with new material decades ago. The vast majority of this set was at least 30 years old, ignoring his last 15 studio albums entirely. Then again, with so many beloved crowd-pleasers to squeeze into two hours, from a wistful folk-tinged reworking of Maggie May to the Springsteen-meets-New-Wave gallop of Young Turks and the Viagra-pumped disco silliness of Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?, he had no pressing reason to step outside his ageing audience’s comfort zone.

The heavy reliance on cover versions over Stewart’s own compositions in this set also seemed strangely self-limiting for a man clearly not overburdened by modesty. That said, his superlative readings of the Etta James classic I Would Rather Go Blind, Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately and Curtis Mayfield’s civil rights hymn People Get Ready were all rousing, raspy-voiced show-stoppers. “Still got it,” Stewart winked at the audience. “I’m just not sure what it is...”

Stewart made headlines recently by revealing he is renting a house for a large family of Ukrainian refugees. He underlined this connection at the O2 by repurposing his misty-eyed 1991 hit Rhythm of My Heart as an anti-war statement, wearing the blue-and-yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag as he danced below a giant photo portrait of President Zelensky. Hardly a subtle gesture, but oddly moving and slightly surreal.

It also emerged recently that Stewart turned down a million-dollar offer to play in Qatar over human rights concerns, long before the current World Cup controversies. Whatever his comically louche playboy image, he has a noble track record of such humane, progressive gestures. He famously wrote one of the earliest protest songs about homophobia, The Killing of Georgie, back in 1976. How bizarre that he is now showing Robbie Williams and David Beckham how to be supportive of LGBT allies.

This show was pure Vegas spectacle, populist to the core, drenched in sentimental nostalgia and broad-brush emotion. Stewart may be easy to mock as the perma-tanned Peter Stringfellow of rock, but his self-effacing humour and infectious old-school charm proved hard to resist in a vast arena full of cheering, ecstatic punters.

He bowed out with his signature anthem Sailing, complete with tribute photos to the late Queen, who was apparently fond of this evergreen wanderlust ballad. As with everything touched by the hand of Rod during this show, this grand finale walked a wobbly line between naff excess and soulful sincerity. This was working-class rock royalty saluting the fading aristocracy, one national treasure paying warm homage to another.

Rod Stewart, Dublin, review: He rolled out the hits and even some politics 

Rod Stewart delighted Irish fans on his 'last big tour' with a set that also included nods to Ukraine's leader Zelenskiy and Britain's late queen

Post-pandemic pick-me-ups don’t come more potent than Rod Stewart bashing out the hits. He last played Ireland in late 2019, mere months before the world closed down. Three years later, the now 77-year-old was back and remarkably sprightly as he hopscotched through decades worth of risqué rompers, all delivered with a wink and a nod by classic rock’s bad boy in chief.

“They say I go back stage for a rest,” he said, having dashed off to change into leopard-skin trousers midway through the first of two Dublin shows. “I’m not having a rest – I’m changing costume! I’m putting on a show.” 

 

He was right about that. Surrounded by a quintet of statuesque backing musicians with uniform shoulder-length blonde hair – they could have called themselves the Stepford Jives – he kicked off with an impish cover of Robert Palmer’s 'Addicted To Love' (a song perfect absurd even without Rod’s rollicking rasp driving it on).

The mood from there was celebratory and bantering as Stewart cantered through 'Maggie May', his backing band reimagining the tune as a bluesy bop.

There were ballads, too. Stewart, now dressed in resplendent red, perched on a stool as he negotiated Mike d’Abo’s 'Handbags and Glad Rags' (he thinks his version is better than the Stereophonics) and Van Morrison’s 'Have I Told You Lately?'

There was the odd bit of politics. He saluted an image of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during 'Rhythm Of My Heart'. 'Sailing' featured a tribute on the video screen to the late Queen Elizabeth II. The briny ballad was reportedly a favourite of the late monarch.

Stewart is a showman and raconteur and not averse to the odd helping of cheese. It was slathered on with gusto as the stools vanished and he and his backing singers stomped through the Las Vegas bop of 'Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?', the crowd singing along to its zinging synth line.

Though born and raised in London, Stewart is of Scottish extraction and a proud Celt. He revealed that he recently purchased a flat in Ballsbridge and later performed Frank and Seán O'Meara’s 1985 trad ballad 'Grace', about Grace Gifford who married 1916 Rising rebel Joseph Plunkett hours before his execution. Celtic wistfulness proved to be one more thing at which Stewart excels and he amped up the ennui when returning for the encore to bash out the aforementioned 'Sailing'.

“This is the last big tour for me,” Stewart told the Irish Examiner recently. Rock stars make those sorts of pronouncements all the time. But if it was the final curtain then this rakish victory lap was a send-off to remember.

 

Rod Stewart review – glam can’t hide songs sailing past sell-by date

Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
There’s swagger in his wardrobe, and a few ageless classics delivered with gusto, but there’s a lot here showing its age

Opening a set with a cover is an unusual choice. Opening a set in 2022 with Robert Palmer’s 1986 hit Addicted to Love, in a delivery that embraces its dated production and sickly smooth sheen, is even odder. But in the world of Rod Stewart, it makes perfect sense. Aside from being perpetually locked into the 1980s – he emerges with trademark spiky blond hair, clad in a garish sparkly suit – the 77-year-old now has enjoyed a near 60-year career, the success of which is as much down to covers as it is originals. This is quickly hammered home by the fact that, four tracks in, Stewart covers Robert Palmer yet again, this time tackling the late singer’s take on the Persuaders’ Some Guys Have All the Luck.

Occasionally, he overlaps into pure magpie territory, as on Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?, a track Stewart has admitted involves “unconscious plagiarism” when it comes to lifting from the Jorge Ben track Taj Mahal, and which takes its synth hook directly from a Bobby Womack song. Naff lyrics and light plagiarism aside, the track as performed tonight is an undeniable disco stomper, with Stewart’s extensive band (which runs into double figures) locked into a taut, sultry groove.

Plenty of Stewart’s own tracks get an outing, such as the still-euphoric synth pop barnstormer Young Turks, but occasionally it becomes clear why he leans so heavily into others’ material. One More Time, taken from his most recent album, is an embodiment of where Stewart is in his career: its protagonist tries desperately to lure one last sexual encounter out of an ex in much the same way Stewart ploughs into his reserves to try and pump out one last late-career sex banger. It’s an undeniable stinker and low point of the evening.

Stewart has plenty of gold in his back catalogue to draw from, but it’s largely ignored tonight. Aside from Maggie May – a beautiful highlight – Stewart’s early folk influences remain buried under ballads, mid-tempo rock and sex pop. Stewart happily leans into the glossier, often cheesier and more commercially successful parts of his career, embracing his glitter-suited lounge act fresh back from Vegas vibe at the expense of his one-time earnest singer-songwriter.

Of course, he may be tiring of cranking out the hits. “I’m not retiring, but there comes a point where you need to change,” he said recently. “I don’t want to be singing Hot Legs and Tonight’s the Night when I’m 80. I’ve got something I want to move on to, something I’m passionate about – jazz.”

If this is the chance to hear Stewart’s gravelly, honey-coated voice belting out the hits then he makes some odd choices to depart on. The decision to have his backing singers perform even more covers – Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff and LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade – while Stewart changes into another gaudy outfit offstage feels simply overkill. But a stripped-back acoustic run of tracks that includes Handbags and Gladrags, Tonight’s the Night and I Don’t Want to Talk About It feels more like the emotive farewell you may expect.

That said, as much as Stewart says he might pivot to jazz, he also once claimed he was going to stop playing Hot Legs due to it being too inappropriate for modern audiences. But that gets an outing tonight – although cut short before the most problematic lyrics – so who knows if this really is goodbye. The inevitable closing song, Sailing, turns into a tribute to the late Queen and inspires the kind of mass singalong you’d expect. It’s a strangely fitting end to the evening – although undeniably distinct, hugely successful and occasionally truly singular, Stewart still chooses to exit under another figure’s shadow.

Rod Stewart, Nottingham Arena, review: Icky and endearing at once. No one else would get away with this

The star’s famously raspy voice holds up well on this opening night – and the show is full of cheeky scamp charm

“This is off the last album,” Rod Stewart says, before clocking a response so muted tumbleweed could have drifted across the stage. “I thought it sold better than that!”

He had momentarily forgotten showbiz’s golden rule. People don’t come to a Rod Stewart gig to hear new songs, especially when they are as excruciating as the Celtic knees up of One More Time, a song about asking your ex for one last go for old time’s sake (Stewart, 77, is 15 years into his third marriage).

No, they come for 50 years of hits that have amassed 120 million albums sales; a show that presents rock music as entertainment first and foremost; and for the cheeky scamp charm that allows Stewart to get away with stuff that shouldn’t really fly in 2022.

If the fact half of his 10-piece band are women (often) in short dresses is just about on the right side of Vegas tackiness, the lyrics to “Tonight’s The Night” – “don’t say a word my virgin child/just let your inhibitions run wild”- are downright icky. “I should know better at my age,” he says at one point. “But I don’t”.

 

But the show is undoubtedly infectious, full of knowing fun. All eras of Rod are represented tonight: the Celtic-folk of earliest days, his Mod breakthrough, tartan teen heart throb, shiny suited pop diva.

With high production values and bright staging, screen footage ranges from his beloved Celtic beating Rangers to a tribute to Ukraine: Stewart, who has been helping a family of Ukrainian refugees, salutes an image of President Zelensky.

His shock of blonde hair is as recognisable as ever – and his endearing dad dancing and costume changes add to the theatre: we get leopard skin, shiny silver, sparkly black. “People wonder if I’m gay,” he says. “Critics say I need a rest. But it’s because I’m sweating my bollocks off”.

 

In a 24-song career-spanning set, 14 are covers of some description: he opens with stall-setting yet perfunctory “Addicted To Love”; “Hot Stuff” and “Lady Marmalade”, delivered by backing singers while Stewart is offstage, are pure cabaret.

Much better are two Faces songs, “Ooh La La” and “Stay With Me” – songs from Stewart’s youth that have become poignant in his advanced years.

His famously raspy voice holds up well on this opening night. Only on “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” – “not everyone’s cup of tea” – does it falter (he’s helped out by the crowd in any case). In fact, his chart era actually sounds surprisingly contemporary: 1988’s soft rock anthem “Forever Young” comes over like a clarion call, Stewart swivelling the microphone stand around his body; “Young Turks”, from 1981, is an infectious drive time rocker that could have been the work of “The War on Drugs”; “Hot Legs” is loose and vigorous. Stewart kicks footballs into the crowd.

If some Celtic-tinged reworkings don’t always hit the mark – “The First Cut is the Deepest” loses some of its emotional weight; the Celtic-instrumental hoedown is merely filler – then the quieter moments are imbued with tenderness.

A pared-down section, the band sat in a row at the front of the stage, begins with an affecting “Handbags and Gladrags”. A reworked “Maggie May”, Stewart singing the first verses over a funereal arrangement, has a wistfulness that works superbly, Stewart digging deep to feel the moment. Similarly, the closing “Sailing”, with a picture of The Queen on the big screen (she liked the song, apparently) is undoubtedly moving.

“I know money is short,” he tells the crowd. “So thanks for coming out. You’ll get your money’s worth”. By the end, nobody was arguing.

All hail Rod Stewart – cheesy, raunchy and a populist to his core

    
5/5

The first night of the 77-year-old rocker’s arena tour was a treat, full of sensual lyrics, Celtic dancing and costume changes galore

By almost every metric, 2022 has been a terrible year. War in Ukraine, political turmoil, the death of the Sovereign, a looming recession… So perhaps I was predisposed to enjoy this colourful, heart-warming, hit-packed and preposterously entertaining show from the raspy master himself, Rod Stewart. 

The first night of the 77-year-old’s Christmas arena tour was cheesier than a festive fondue, and it oozed the kind of nudge-nudge lasciviousness that few artists would attempt to get away with these days. But what elevated this 24-song concert was the empathetic common touch with which Stewart infused it. In addressing many of the aforementioned issues, Stewart showed himself to be a master of reflecting the national mood.

Visually, the show sat somewhere between the neon glitz of the Las Vegas strip and the leopard-print intimacy of a 1980s boudoir. Stewart came on after a blast of Scotland the Brave (he’s a self-confessed “Cockney Scotsman”) as his band played Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love. Surrounded by the female contingent of his band – all of whom wore black hotpants – Stewart skipped and preened and wiggled like a mischievous teenager.

In an interview at the weekend, he said he’d briefly considered axing Hot Legs from his set because it’s “a shagging song”. Well, the quotient of such songs was sky-high: as well as Hot Legs, we had Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?, Tonight’s the Night and Stay With Me. There was also a cover of Labelle’s Lady Marmalade, just in case anyone didn’t get the memo that Rod might be up to coucher avec quelqu’un ce soir.

Stewart’s career has spanned many genres, from the bar rock of The Faces (Ooh La La was a highlight here), to early hits such as You Wear It Well and Maggie May (both deployed early), then those disco-tinged shagging songs, and more mainstream schmaltzy balladry such as Forever Young. That track had a curious Riverdance-like interlude that saw the band indulge in Celtic dancing and drumming, but normal service was quickly resumed when Stewart re-emerged from the wings in a zebra-print shirt and skinny black jeans with punk chains attached, one of an inordinate number of costume changes. An acoustic segment saw him perform some of the many cover versions he’s done over the decades, such as Mike D’Abo’s Handbags and Gladrags and Crazy Horse’s I Don’t Want to Talk About It.

 
 

Then there was the empathy. Stewart thanked the crowd for coming out in such numbers when cash is “very short” at the moment. “You’ve forked out. You will get your money’s worth,” he said. He performed Rhythm of My Heart wearing a yellow jacket over a blue shirt in front of a vast Ukrainian flag. At the end, he turned and saluted a picture of Volodymyr Zelensky. And during Sailing, pictures of Queen Elizabeth II appeared. She loved the song, apparently. 

Such acknowledgements may sound mawkish on paper, but they were genuinely affecting in an arena context. “You still with me?” Stewart said towards the end, to a huge roar. “Yeah!” he replied. “My people!” This was a masterclass in entertainment, fun and reading the room. Rod the Mod: man of the people.

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March 31

April 1,2

highgate45@yahoo.co.uk

for details.

 

 

NEXT TOUR DATES

P & J Live, Aberdeen

Dec 2

Ovo Hydro, Glasgow

Dec 3

M & S Bank Arena

Dec 6

Utilita Arena, Birmingham

Dec 9,10

First Direct Arena, Leeds

Dec 13

AO Arena, Manchester

Dec 14

Utilita Arena, Newcastle

Dec 17

The SSE Arena, Belfast

Dec 20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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