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Rod Stewart, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, O2 review - Tonight's the Night | reviews, news & interviews

Rod Stewart, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, O2 review - Tonight's the Night

Rod Stewart, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, O2 review - Tonight's the Night

Pushing 75 and still hot

Beyond the cliches, a great interpreterBazza Mills

I can’t look at Rod Stewart without thinking of Barbara, one of the naughtier girls in my third-form class at East Barnet Senior High School. She was tiny, and obsessed with him, her hair cut like his. “Maggie May” was number one, playing from tinny trannies in lunchbreak. It was from Every Picture Tells a Story, the album that established Stewart’s solo career. Barbara was in seventh heaven.

I occasionally wonder what happened to her and kept an eye open at O2 where Hot Rod was playing the second of three dates with the RPO before heading home for Christmas.

Sir Rod, as we must now call him, is marking a half-century as a solo artist and he’ll be 75 in January. He’s come a long way since his first professional gig playing harmonica with Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions. A reformed folkie who failed to make it into the Kinks and who was now working the R&B scene, he picked up a few licks from Mick Jagger and got hired by Long John Baldry – a £35-a-week gig secured with his mother’s approval. His big break came with the Jeff Beck Group, New York Times critic Robert Shelton noting "the interaction of Mr Beck's wild and visionary guitar against the hoarse and insistent shouting of Rod Stewart.” Then came The Faces, though by that time he was more interested in a solo career. By the mid Seventies he was a transatlantic smash, Atlantic Crossing featuring two of his biggest hits – “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and, of course, “Sailing”, both of which featured in his generous set at London’s 02 last night.

He arrived with You're in My Heart: Rod Stewart with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra atop the charts but amid a bit of a backlash for his seeming endorsement of Boris Johnson which, given his position in the Sunday Times Rich List (estimated wealth: £190m), is perhaps not surprising. Still, the audience – very white and mostly on the older side, including the singer’s 90-year-old sister and brother – seemed not to mind, standing for much of the concert even when Stewart himself sat down, and singing along lustily.

The O2 dates conclude a year of on-off UK touring, his first in three years and, appropriately, it’s taken in lots of football stadiums – the Celtic United logo adorned both drum kits and the support act, Johnny Mac and the Faithful, a lively mix of Scot-rock and Americana, were also supporters. Hot Rod was piped on-stage, prancing on in a black and gold jacket, frilled shirt and leopard-print tie, a go-faster gold stripe on his Max Wall trousers, and gold hi-tops. He’s a tad pudgy these days and the hair’s an odd colour (I once asked him how he maintained “the look” and he advised “lots of product and don’t wash it too often”) but as he said, “I’ve still got it”.

From first to last, more than two hours nonstop, the hits just kept on coming, his own songs and those he’s made his own: “Some Guys Have All The Luck”, “Twisting the Night Away”, “It Takes Two”, “Forever Young”, “The Killing of Georgie”, “Gasoline Alley”, “Maggie May”, “Tonight’s the Night” and “The First Cut is the Deepest”. Video backdrops formed an intrinsic part of the show and that which accompanied Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train” afforded a ride on the Manhattan model railway he’s spent 23 years building and which features in this month’s Railway Modeller. “The Rhythm of My Heart” was sung as a tribute to veterans of World War Two, though the montage of D-Day landings, Spitfires and Churchill jarred somewhat. “My brother told me I was conceived in an air-raid shelter”, he said proudly.

Like most people, I have a handful of favourite Stewart songs, and I always thought he made good a fist of the Great American Songbook, which sadly didn’t feature last night. But I was never a fan. Seeing him live, however, the reason for his longevity is clear: he’s a great entertainer: gracious, self-deprecating and amusing. He thanked everyone for coming out “on this miserable night”, made a sort-of apology for the price of the tickets, and joked about one his jackets – “a hundred-and-thirty quid in Zara this summer”. He was getting over a cold he told us, brandishing a white hankie (“I need to blow my nose”), and soothed his throat with a wonderfully retro Bacardi and Coke, a drink as self-consciously and unashamedly naff as his outfits.

It was a lavish production, what with the video backdrops and the RPO, who appeared, bow-tied, mid-way through his set and looked to be having fun. His band, and the backing vocalists – who turned out to be highly talented multi-instrumentalists – were versatile and high-calibre. The droning cliché that is “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” was the low-point of the evening, but when he sang the Dubliners’ “Grace”, a story drawn from the Easter Uprising which the BBC banned, it’s clear he’s a great interpreter of meaningful songs. Rock on, Rod.

Liz Thomson's website

The reason for his longevity is clear: he’s a great entertainer: gracious, self-deprecating and amusing


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Mostly White ? What does that have to do with it ? Stick to reviewing the music and not the audience.

I interpreted 'white' as' white haired', which we certainly were!

Not sure that was true (though I'm pretty white!) I meant white as opposed to black. Most concerts I go to are much more mixed, so I'm curious as to what that says about Rod


It's a perfectly valid observation.

Rod has been a massive part of my music life.he is a showman and a legend .A couple of his uptempo songs seemed to be a bit of a struggle for him.but he's nearly 75 and gives his Rod down to and feels every word he sings .yes you are still sexy .if like most of us getting on a bit.

What was the film rod recommended?

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