There are few artists in the modern history of Rock and Roll whose careers have been as eventful and ground-breaking as that of Sir Rod Stewart. Already immersed in the sounds of Rhythm and Blues and Soul before playing with The Dimensions and Long John Baldry, he moved on to play with the Jeff Beck Group in 1967. For those that know their music history it was that band that essentially set down the prototype for what would become Hard Rock and Heavy Metal with their exploration of Blues, Folk and Rock. Indeed it’s hard to imagine the likes of Led Zeppelin without that band, and Rod was there at ground zero. Ever the reinventor Rod left the disintegrating band to join Faces in 1969, the band that was formed out of the ashes of The Small Faces when Steve Marriott left to form Humble Pie. Faces were the perfect Rock and Roll band but it was Rod’s love of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding that flavoured his rekindled, and then parallel, solo career.
Add to that heady mix a love of football, the high life, and ale or two and a wonderful eye for self-parody and the 70’s saw Rod achieve even greater heights with albums like ‘Atlantic Crossing’ which tore up the charts globally. The 80’s and 90’s were huge too as he dabbled with new wave and even disco, before another reinvention years later with ‘The Great American Songbook’. As a musician Rod always has had a wonderful eye for a great song, whether his own, or an inspired cover, and despite personal trials and tribulations, and a life never out of the media, he’s still going strong. With 250 million albums sold and countless hit records in his wake he’s still recording. With his latest album, his 31.st solo record, ‘The Tears of Hercules’ out in only 2021 you also feel there are many more chapters still to be written. But as they say ‘Tonight’s the Night’…
On a wonderful Perth Summer evening, Rod played the first date of his latest Australian Tour with wonderful support from Jon Stevens and Cyndi Lauper and it was a show that took us through a career you would be hard pushed to match. The only real question before the show was what would he and his rock solid backing band play for us? After all you could throw a dart at any record and hit gold.
Opening tonight Jon Stevens can’t put a foot wrong and despite a deliciously early 6.30 start he has the half assembled crowd more than warmed up with a surefire set of Noiseworks and INXS classics. Opening with ‘Touch’ from Noiseworks and taking in classics like INXS’s ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ it’s a set you’d swear the crowd new word for word and the perfect opening to the evening.
Cyndi Lauper appears from behind a door onto a stage bedecked with inflatables, trademark quirky colours and band. Opening interestingly with ‘Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)’ things soon warm up as she strides the stage in pink suit and bleached blonde hair and belts out ‘She Bop’. From then it’s sheer entertainment with quirky dance moves non-stop hits and some wonderful quips about dulcimers and playing ‘his’ songs in her early career. Cyndi is particularly talkative and utterly charming and of course we get ‘True Colors’ and ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ but for me the highlight is the treatment of ‘I Drove All Night’ and the little snatch of Rod’s ‘Sailing’ in ‘Sally’s Pigeons.’
The anticipation in the room for Rod after Cyndi Lauper closed her set on such a high was palpable, you could almost cut the anticipation with a knife. Coming on to the strains of ‘Scotland the Brave’ Rod’s band which consists of an almost equal split of male and female musicians and backing singers makes their way on stage. And if there was a better way to open the show tan by a cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ I’d like to hear it! It’s a great rendition that sets the party atmosphere for the evening with violins on fire and Rod swaggering with hand on hips through the song.
Resplendently dressed in a silver suit and zebra shirt and clutching the microphone like an old friend Rod had us from the off. There’s few that command a stage like Rod and even fewer who can pull from such a rich catalogue. The band is looking smart too dressed in white with thin ties and smart suits that make them look like those bands of yesteryear who played Rhythm and Blues.
For me an early highlight comes with a wonderful rendition of Faces ‘Ooh La La’ that steals the show and interestingly was I think the only Faces song that neither Rod nor Ronnie Lane sung, instead having the lead vocal by Ronne Wood, who of course went on to play with that little band The Rolling Stones. It’s a wonderfully wry cautionary tale and shows that gentle sense of humour on a number of levels, considering its subject matter and provenance.
Any Rod Stewart concert is of course part belting out the hits and part musical education and there’s a real love in the way he tackles some of the cover’s he’s better known for. Before ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’ the old Persuaders song Rod made his own back in 1984 a decade after the original hit the charts we dig even deeper back to Sam Cooke’s immortal ‘Having a Party’ it’s such great fun!
Motown surfaces re-shod with Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston’s ‘It Takes Two’ with one of his remarkable backing singers. “It’s a sweat box tonight, I’m working for you” Rod tells us catching a breath before asking us if we fancy a little Blues as he belts out some Muddy Waters. The band are simply wonderful and Rod teases us asking if it any good?
Perth might be nice and litter free but “You can’t buy a Starbucks!” Rod jokes as we skip forward a few decades. It’s great to hear the 80’s classics, and we’re treated to ‘Forever Young’ next which is one of tonight’s set pieces. The band is absolutely on point and mid-way Rod leaves the stage and Scottish dancing ensues followed by a spirited instrumental segment. Rod is back to finish the song – it’s a wonderful take and the first of a number of set pieces that allow Rod to change costumes and put his feet up!
There’s not many shows when you can pace some of your biggest hits mid-set but that’s the beauty of Stewart’s catalogue and let’s face it for me he could sing the phone book and make it memorable. The arena near erupts for Rod’s famous Cat Stevens cover ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’ which is surely one of the defining songs of his career, but to follow that up with the immortal ‘Maggie May’ is more than enough to warrant the ticket price and we’re only mid-way. The amount of love in the room after that is immeasurable!
But on a night that threatens to be one of the very best shows of an already great year why not just throw in some wonderful Etta James to underline that credential. ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ is simply sublime and Rod regales us of teh story of he and Ronnie Wood and a couple of bottles of Red nailing the song on the second take. It’s the sort of song that makes you realise how wonderful this catalogue really is and the stage is transformed from the colourful spectacle to a dimly lit club to transform the mood. He gives a shout out to Christine McVie “They’re dropping like flies” he says shaking his heard before adding “I’m not feeling too well myself”!
We’re then invited to drift between decades first to the 80’s for ‘Young Turks’ from Rod’s 1981 album of the same name, in the intro you can see a huge smile on his face before he announces that his beloved Celtic are 2-0 up (against Hearts as it happens). It’s another wonderful version with a mid-section drum battle and a wonderful touch of harp, where Rod slips off stage again and returns to close wearing the blue shirt and yellow jacket “The colours of the Ukraine flag” he tells us.
‘Rhythm of my Heart’ from 1991’s ‘Rhythm of my Heart’ become another setpiece “All wars are disgusting” Rod muses as visuals from Ukraine fil the screens. Rod has been antiwar of course since his youth so it’s no surprise he’s taking the stance tonight. And he’s off again as the now animla print wearing backing singers give us a wonderful interlude with Chaka’s Khan’s classic ‘I’m Every Woman’ before we are thrust into the magnificent maelstrom of The Temptations ‘People Get Ready’ that Rod recorded with the sadly missed Jeff Beck. It’s breathtaking and set against a backdrop of US Civil Rights images a real reminder at how little we’ve done over the decades to come together.
With the singers seated across the front of the stage we’re treated to a wonderful version of ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ which is one of the first songs I can remember falling completely in love with – a song that made me realise the importance of music in my life. And still seated across the stage Rod reminds us that we’re listening to “Real music” before the Celtic badge and images of their new Aussie manager accompany ‘You’re In My Heart’.
Rod Stewart has never been an artist you can pin down, and he has an armory that is almost immeasurable but also a warmth and persuasiveness that allows him to move from savvy sing-along Pop to blissful poignancy in a moment. It’s all so effortless too, and with a simple “We’ll have one more slow one before we pick up the pace” he’s into that sublime love song ‘Have I Told You Lately’ that sees the guitarist bending those strings and the mandolin returning after an earlier runout with ‘Maggie’.
If you thought the surprises or the Soul was over then an inspired cover of LaBell’s iconic ‘Lady Marmalade’ proves you wrong. It’s a final showpiece and last breather for Rod before a tribute to Olivia Newton John and then that unmistakable bassline… There is of course only one way out of this party and it’s with Rod’s 70’s classic ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’ it’s a song that saw Rod embrace disco and indulge in a little self-deprecating humour. There’s a wave and Rod is off.
Thankfully we don’t have to wait too long till he returns for an encore of ‘Sailing’ The Sutherland Brothers Band song he made his own in the 70’s. And with that the first night of the Australian Tour is dine and dusted.
You could build a setlist from the songs that Rod didn’t play tonight that would put most artists to shame and that is the real beauty of a night like this – you never know quite what you will get but you always leave more than satisfied.
Australia you need some Rod in your life. Grab your tickets from Live Nation now!
ROD STEWART PERTH SETLIST
- Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer Cover)
- You Wear It Well
- Ooh La La (Faces)
- Having a Party (Sam Cooke cover)
- Some Guys Have All the Luck (The Persuaders cover)
- It Takes Two (Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston cover)
- Rolin’ and Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters cover)
- Forever Young
- The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover)
- Maggie May
- I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
- Young Turks
- Rythm of My Heart (Marc Jordan cover)
- I’m Every Woman (Chaka Khan cover)
- People Get Ready (The Impressions cover)
- I Don’t Want To Talk About It
- Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
- You’re in my Heart
- Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison cover)
- Lady Marmalade (LaBelle cover)
- Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?
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