Rod Stewart: crotch-waggling imp turns misty-eyed troubadour to lead us to singalong heaven

Review: It’s cheese with everything as pop’s great bluesman serenades Dublin’s 3Arena

Rod Stewart at the 3Arena. Photograph:  Crispin Rodwell, The Irish Times

Rod Stewart at the 3Arena. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell, The Irish Times

 

The Voice of Rod ranks as among classic pop’s seven wonders. It descends from on-high at the 3Arena, whisking the audience off to soft rock singalong heaven. This being Rod Stewart, a little cheekiness and a lot of schmaltz are part of the bargain. But it’s hard to argue with his old-school, cheese-with-everything showmanship.

True, that thunderclap rasp is not quite as epic as in his 1970s heyday. Nor does the bleached cockatoo quiff sparkle like it used to. Yet despite Stewart’s pensionable status, age is a long way from withering popular music’s great bluesman.

The hits are ticked off raffishly by Stewart and his backing vocalists (wrapped in backfoil to ensure we can see them). He belts out You Wear It Well with Cheshire-cat insouciance. And Maggie May sparkles brightly on a cold winter’s night.

Stewart is in many ways the rock stars other rock stars dream of being when they grow up. Decades before Oasis donned a parka in anger, he helped create the stereotype of the 24-hour party person. There were champagne baths, supermodel girlfriends, tellies chucked from hotel windows. In his tax exile days he once flew from Los Angeles to Dublin so that he could watch the Scottish soccer team on the telly.

In pictures: Rod Stewart
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That old twinkle endures and not just because of his sparkling jacket. He radiates roguish zing negotiating Sam Cooke’s Having a Party and The Persuaders’ Some Guys Have All The Luck. The latter is a song Stewart obviously reckons could have been written about him.

But as the decades have flown past so Stewart has nurtured his introspective side. Though born in London his Scottish roots imbued in him a love of Glasgow Celtic FC.

It was at a Celtic match that he first encountered the Frank and Seán O’Meara lament Grace, about Grace Gifford, wife of executed 1916 Rising leader Joseph Plunkett. Her story has had a transformative effect on Stewart, whose voice cracks as he negotiates the ballad (he will drag the O’Mearas up for a boggling boogie during Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?).

This is during an acoustic section that elsewhere sees Stewart putting his feet up and variously covering Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town and Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately.

Any pretence at understatement is dispensed with for the encore. Inevitably, he bashes out Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? – accompanied by a blizzard of balloons – and then Sailing. The juxtaposition reminds us that Stewart, from crotch-waggling imp to misty-eyed troubadour, is a showman for all seasons. Three-weeks before Christmas, this is a yuletide treat with big shiny bells attached.

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