tue 12/11/2019

Rod Stewart, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Rod Stewart, O2 Arena

Rod Stewart, O2 Arena

The old Scottish reprobate is on a roll

Rod the Mod: still soulful after all these years

For certain types (yes, I was that serious-minded teenager) in the late Seventies Rod Stewart made a convenient hate figure – a coke-snorting dinosaur with interchangeable blondes on his arm who, having made some decent records, was now making banal ones like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” (and that was one of the better ones). Last night, the only moment Rod looked slightly embarrassed was singing that travesty of Disco, at 68. Even Rod now admits discs like 1980’s Foolish Behaviour were “a pile of shit”.

But, in a curious twist, having spent the last decade doing covers, Rod seems to be on a creative hot streak he hasn't had for decades with his new chart-topping album Time. Writing his much-lauded autobiography he says helped unlock his dormant songwriting skills and last night “Brighton Beach”, a tender ballad wondering what happened to his first love, was one of the real highlights. How often can you say that of a just-released song from a “heritage” act?

Rod is far from the only pensioner who is centre stage again. The Rolling Stones are headlining Glastonbury, and at the more fashionable end of the spectrum Kraftwerk are headlining Latitude and Bowie has also been at the top of the charts, also with new material. It's a good year for rockers with a bus pass.

How does the old rogue get away with it? Firstly, because Rod has a keen sense of his own ridiculousness. He’s a Merrie England cavalier who brings an involuntary smile to all but the most po-faced. He's the Boris Johnson of pop – you might not approve of his attitude to women or politics, but you aren’t going to be bored. He also has a rich back catalogue of classic songs going back 40 years; among the big winners last night were “Maggie May”,“The First Cut Is The Deepest” and “Forever Young”, the latter a cue for a picture on screen of the murdered soldier Lee Rigby and a drum solo that enabled Rod to change into a polka-dot shirt and a shiny green suit.   

We had moments of sentimentality you would expect from an old boozer – but Rod still managed to win even the more sceptical over

The rest of the 14 piece band were dressed very Robert Palmer 1984 – the guys in suit and tie, while the women’s uniform (the brass players and violinist as well as the backing vocalists) was leather mini, red high heels and white top. Should the word be retrosexual?

We had the footie video, the balls kicked into the audience, and two of his kids dressed up in Celtic gear came on stage. We had moments of sentimentality you would expect from an old boozer, but Rod still managed to win over even the more sceptical of us.

That was even though the sound was barely passable in the cavernous O2 (with air conditioning sending a distinct chill to our section of the audience), and his band were competent but not outstanding. Rod apparently wants to reform the Faces with Ronnie Wood, a band whose chaotic energy was by all accounts a joy to experience. Here only the harpist Julia Thornton played anything that made your ears prick up with an unexpected colour.

Rod has the advantage that his voice already sounded old-geezer smashed by the time he was 20, and now he actually is an old geezer, he sounds just the same. Unlike many other singers his age, his vocals seem as strong as ever, and he has the enviable ability to perform a song he has sung thousands of times before as if he means it. He's enough of a showbiz pro to give the audience the songs they came to hear. His dancing may be getting a bit creaky, but that raspy soul voice remains a marvel. As Leonard Cohen, another oldie with a revived career put it, it’s the cracks that let the light in.

Rod may well be an old reprobate majoring in footie, booze and blondes, but just as Boris appears a buffoon but is actually very clever and scheming, Rod has hidden depths. It’s that which makes him loveable and a man-of-the-people, the laddish persona masking heartbreak and vulnerability. For the big songs like “Maggie May” and “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” the audience was word-perfect and he would drop out for a verse while the crowd took over the singing. "Sailing" of course is a perfect crowd singalong, even if my teenage self would have commited hari-kiri before admitting to liking it. But that’s another advantage of longevity, songs become woven into the fabric of the audience’s lives. For that we can forgive him a lot, though maybe not the excruciating “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”.

His dancing may be getting a bit creaky, but that raspy soul voice remains a marvel. As Leonard Cohen, another oldie with a revived career put it, it’s the cracks that let the light in

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Comments

Rod Stewart was fantastic. His energy levels are amazing. However, our seats were appalling! Bad enough being up in the Gods - block 419 (These were the best seats we could get!, despite having booked months ago) But our view of the picture screen on stage that was showing Rod was blocked by a large black box attached to the ceiling meaning that we could see nothing up close. Why couldn't it have been shown on both sides of the screen? Very disappointing, we might as well have been listening to his songs on c.d.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.