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Rod Stewart - 02, London, 21/9/2013

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 3 / 10 / 2013

Rod Stewart - 02, London, 21/9/2013


Anthony Dhanendran sees Rod Stewart play an enormously entertaining and crowd-pleasing set at the O2 in London

Rod Stewart is a man who knows how to please his audience. His early career in rock and roll having proved fruitful, he proceeded to spend the following years sanding down the rough edges and pushing to the forefront his sex appeal. At the age of 68 he is still touring strong, this time around with a conceit named and themed around ‘Time’. He appears on stage at the old Millennium Dome to the Blues Brothers concert theme and a deliberately anachronistic stage design, an all-white affair that mimics those of the old-timey band leaders. The Scots appeal is also pushed to the front, with Scottish tunes before the curtain rises. Being themed around time, the set consists of a good deal of covers, with some Stewart classics thrown in, and even a couple of family appearances - son Alastair makes a surprisingly swaggering appearance, followed not long afterwards by half-sister Ruby who performs her own composition ‘Just One More Day’ before duetting with her father. After that we're treated to a montage of bagpipes and military visuals, followed by a rather strange drum solo during which Rod and the rest of the band go off for a costume change and to answer the call of nature (presumably these days it's a bit more civilised than the story Rod once recounted to Q magazine, in which he was playing with Long John Baldry's band and "nipped off for a slash", as he put it. Unfortunately the only place to go was a pint glass in the upstairs dressing room. Which then began to overflow, through the floorboards and onto the head of said Baldry.). He introduces ‘Rhythm of My Heart’ as having been written in the trenches of Vietnam, and dedicates it to past and serving soldiers. It's accompanied by a rather bizarre montage of the D-Day landing beaches and other wartime imagery, culminating in a large Union Flag on the monitors at the song's conclusion. Elsewhere the video screens are used to good effect, such as in the opening number, when Rod and the front-of-stage backing singers are merged into old performances by the Four Tops and other stars. The weirdest point of the gig, by far, is when Rod introduces a trio of well-trodden YouTube clips that he finds hilarious. It's followed by ‘Hot Legs’ and the obligatory kicking of signed footballs into the crowd. In defiance of his connections to Celtic Football Club, it turns out that Rod can kick a ball quite well. The band, of course, are at the top of their game. In addition to the usual guitars, bass and drums, there’s sax player Jimmy Roberts, and a harp player remains on stage throughout, supplemented at times by a full string section and the aforementioned Junior Stewart Club. On the familiar songs (‘Wear It Well’, ‘I Don't Wanna Talk About It’) the majority of the audience supply lusty vocals as well. Rod's voice is in good condition - unlike, say, Mick Jagger, Rod can still hit the high notes, although it's certainly fraying at the edges, presumably as a result of the thyroid cancer he suffered some years back. A couple of songs sneak in from him latest album, also called ‘Time’, such as the heartfelt and rather pretty, but lyrically clunky ‘Brighton Beach’. It's accompanied by a montage of famous, now deceased faces, as if to drive home the point about the passing of time. Two more new songs ‘Can't Stop Me Now’ and ‘She Makes Me Happy’, which are dedicated to his father and wife respectively. While clearly the songs mean a lot to him, the section is a rare dud in this otherwise surprisingly lively and enormously entertaining live show. A late-set ‘Maggie May’ has much of the crowd on its feet, and ‘Sailing’ even sees the appearance in the crowd of lighters aloft, a rare sight at a modern gig. ‘Baby Jane’ and the encore of ‘Da Ya Think I'm Sexy’ (introduced, tongue in cheek, with his quote on the screens about not wanting to be a self-parody, singing that song aged 50) again bring everyone to their feet - well, everyone apart from a thoroughly bored-looking fourteen-year-old, presumably dragged there by his parents. At times, your correspondent felt a little like an interloper at the church of Rod, with its strange rituals, flag-waving and pre-defined points in proceedings at which one is supposed to know whether to stand, sit or sing lustily. But it was never dull, and Rod’s certainly written and performed enough classics that a gig of his will always be enjoyable.

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Rod Stewart - 02, London, 21/9/2013

Rod Stewart - 02, London, 21/9/2013

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