How many times did Rod Stewart’s Tuesday night concert at Blossom Music Center veer into sheer inanity?
Let’s see. There were the needless interludes in “Young Turks,” which included a drum breakdown and a detour into “America” from “West Side Story.”
There were the insanely obvious graphics of a downpour that played on screens behind him when he covered Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” And then there was the ultimate sin: buffing out the rough edges of “Maggie May” and turning it into a sickeningly slick singalong.
Those weren’t the only examples, but they all cheapened other truly moving moments throughout the nearly 110-minute show.
Let me be perfectly clear: none of this is about Sir Rod’s ability. He moves amazingly well and his trademark raspy voice is still intact at 77 years old. He didn't lack for energy either, as he literally bounced in his seat during an acoustic set.
Also, he’s a ham and always has been. It’s been a part of the package since the beginning.
No, this was about choices; the same kind Stewart has made in the past 40-plus years that often make it difficult to take him seriously as a musician. After all, he had such a promising first decade — first with the Jeff Beck Group, then the Faces and his early solo albums.
In that sense, the show perfectly encapsulated his career. Backed by a dozen rotating musicians — including six heavily-featured female backup dancers/singers/musicians — the show featured a healthy heap of his 50-plus-year musical journey (though he thankfully eschewed his detours into the Great American Songbook). He performed hard rock, fogey rock, folk, adult contemporary and syrupy ballads.
This led to a half great, half infuriating concert.
For every piece of dreck like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, there was a soulful take on Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which proved that he can perform R&B covers in his sleep. For every “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” there was a take on The Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” complete with images of Black civil rights leaders behind him.
Fortunately, the show mostly ended strong. The four-song acoustic set, aside from “Tonight’s the Night” showed Stewart needed little more than spare instrumentation to entertain a crowd.
After that came perhaps the two hardest rocking songs in his catalog - “Hot Legs” and the Faces’ “Stay with Me.” During the former, as members of his band soloed, Stewart snapped his left hand, moving his arm up and down like a greaser.
That and the many soccer balls he kicked into the crowd during the tune (one of several tributes to his beloved Celtic team) showed that he could include a little stupidity into his act, and do it with a wink.
Too bad he took it too far during the rest of the show.
Openers Cheap Trick warmed up the crowd with 55 minutes of the best power pop this side of the Raspberries.
The prodigal sons of Rockford, Illinois continue to tour nonstop even as as core members Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson are either pushing 70 or have passed it. But they still sound great. Batting a booming and muddy mix, the band triumphantly emerged from a sluggish mid-set to a strong finish, complete with Zander’s soaring vocals and an appearance by Nielsen’s five-necked guitar.
Setlist (from setlist.fm and my recollection):
1. Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer cover)
2. You Wear It Well
3. Ooh La La (Faces song)
4. Some Guys Have All the Luck (The Persuaders cover)
6. It Takes Two (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston cover)
7. Forever Young (with Celtic Band interlude)
8. The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover)
9. Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
10. Maggie May
11. I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
12. Young Turks (with “America” interlude and drum breakdown)
13. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?
14. Rhythm of My Heart (Marc Jordan cover)
15. Call Me (Blondie cover, performed by backing musicians)
16. People Get Ready (The Impressions cover)
17. Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
18. You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
19. Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison cover)
20. Hot Stuff (Donna Summer cover, performed by backing musicians)
21. Hot Legs
22. Stay with Me (Faces song)
Eric Heisig is a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]