Gig of the Week: Rod Stewart at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Stewart’s classics combined with energetic recent releases can still draw in the crowds
Rod Stewart likely knows by now most of the crowd will want to only hear the hits. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
At the age of 74, you might regard Sir Roderick David Stewart as either over the hill or a relic of a different era, but his latest album, Blood Red Roses, suggests there is not only creative energy left in the man but also a desire to hold onto his fans.
The album is his third in five years, and continues a pattern of cowriting songs that began in earnest with 2013’s Time. Prior to Time, Stewart’s bona fide admirers – the ones who had kept up with him from his days in The Faces, and hit-laden solo years of the 1970s, 1980s, and a portion of the 1990s – had been patiently sitting through ten ho-hum years of cover versions.
The most commercially successful of these (especially so in UK and US territories) were released between 2002 and 2010. In addition to the five volumes of his renditions of the Great American Songbook (It Had to Be You, As Time Goes By, Stardust, Thanks for the Memory, and Fly Me to the Moon) were versions of well known rock and soul songs – respectively, 2006’s Still the Same, and 2009’s Soulbook.
The ten year period of what was, in essence, Rod dialling it in on more phones than his fingers could handle was capped in 2012 by Merry Christmas, Baby. Just when you thought the world couldn’t handle yet more versions of Silent Night, White Christmas, et al, along came Rod to add to the pile. Enough, already.
Change in approach
Perhaps Rod himself took stock of the previous ten years and realised that unless he started putting something of himself into the music he would end up being viewed as little more than a once-revered rock star going through motions that were more about making money than anything else. That approach changed from 2013 onwards when Stewart engaged in writing original songs for the first time since 1991’s Vagabond Heart album.
You could say he still wears it reasonably well for a rock star of his vintage, yet he is surely astute enough to know that what the fans want to hear are a good portion of his 30 or so UK hit singles (some of which are cover versions that are inherently associated with him) and what they want to see is the charm he can so effortlessly display.
True, the days of Stewart being the lad most likely to coax the birds from the trees might have dwindled, but there will certainly always be something about him that will endear him to (perhaps not only) the avid fanbase.
Factor in even a handful of the hits – from original pop/rock gems such as Maggie May, Mandolin Wind, You Wear it Well, You’re in my Heart, I Was Only Joking, and The Killing of Georgie to a rake of personalised covers such as Handbags and Gladrags, Reason to Believe, Sailing, The First Cut is the Deepest, and Downtown Train, and you have a performer that hawks a sturdy back catalogue tailor-made for large venues and thousands of people.
And when, I hear you ask, is the biopic going to arrive? With his long-term best mate Elton John receiving the life story treatment this summer (the imminent Rocket Man), you might be forgiven for wondering when is it going to be Rod’s turn.
We’re wish-listing Robert Pattinson to portray Rod the Mod, circa 1971’s Every Picture Tells a Story to 1975’s Atlantic Crossin from Maggie May to Sailing, from breakthrough success to broad mainstream appeal, from bad hair days to blondes having more fun. Can someone please make it happen?