With Las Vegas-style production values and a tremendous cast of good-looking and musically talented musicians to back him up, Rod Stewart electrified an Alltel Arena crowd that filled its lower bowl last Friday.
The one-song encore, “Maggie May,” which concluded the two hours of music, was worth the price of admission alone for this longtime fan of Stewart, who had never seen the Londoner-cum-Scotsman (by way of his father’s ancestry) perform live. Stewart played before a much larger crowd in October 2001, but we’re told by several who were there that for concerts, this one clearly outshone the effort six years ago.
To our right, Rod fans Donna and Melisa journeyed from Huntsville, Ala., to see their hero for about the fourth or fifth time on this show — they’d been as far as L.A., in fact. Think of them only as devoted fans, not groupies — they had a package of old Stewart concert posters that would probably go for thousands on eBay, and Melisa’s photos from previous shows were professional quality. She clicked away throughout this show, too, and they offered a photo for us when it was obvious our cellphone wasn’t going to capture much.
Four huge screens were set above a circular stage, which was designed with levels leading to Rod at the top, with his beloved Celtic Football Club’s circular logo set in the middle of the stage.
Long-legged, blonde, German sax player Katja Rieckermann wailed on “Infatuation” and throughout; a pretty mandolin/violinist, brunette J’Anna Jacoby, looked like she could be one of the Corrs girls; another pretty blonde played guitar and pedal steel. His three black female backup singers, whom he called “The Rodettes,” were phenomenal; worthy of their own show with their strong, soul- and gospel-influenced voices, especially when their own moment came on Janis Joplin’s “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart.”
Women on our bus home asked, “Did you check out the arms on the bass player?” in an oo-lah-lah way. No, we didn’t notice, but we understand. Rod has always traveled, we’re told, with pretty scenery. We did notice Katja and the mandolinist had this flirty thing going with the bassist; lucky him.
From “You Wear It Well” to the finishing “Maggie May,” Stewart presented a retrospective of his rock ’n’ roll years. He even included “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Tonight’s the Night.” Girls who at best might have been conceived when those songs were hits were standing and singling along. Thousands, mostly women, stood throughout. Everyone was on their feet at the end. Besides most of his great early 1970s songs, along with his Faces hit “Stay With Me,” Stewart covered Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, even Elvin Bishop.
The only disappointment: The red tartan curtain came down so fast at the end of “Maggie May,” we didn’t get a long enough final look at the oh-so-beautiful people. Here’s hoping the 62-year-old Stewart has another tour in him. We’ll be sure to tag along with Donna and Melisa from Alabama.
— Jim Harris