August 12, 1998
Story by Tony BonyataJust when you were about to write him off as an aging artist way past his prime, only capable of creating mediocre love songs for the VH1 generation, Rod Stewart proved last Wednesday at Milwaukee's Marcus Amphitheater that he not only can still put on a viable show consisting of time-tested rock classics and newer gems, but that he also possesses an enduring, entertaining magic that only a few of his own early Brit-rock peers, such as The Rolling Stones and David Bowie still have.
Photo by Phil Bonyata
Stewart, who at 54 actually looks like he hasn't aged in the last 15 years, was in Milwaukee to promote his latest and strongest album in years, When We The New Boys, an album that recreates the feeling of his classic 1971 album Every Picture Tells A Story. On it he has secured the songwriting talents of young lions like Oasis, Primal Scream and Superstar and hired himself a great little rock and roll band, ditching the overwrought productions that have plagued so many of his later releases, to give his music a youthful shot-in-the-arm.
Although the stage was elaborate with huge, sleek metal-mesh structures and three giant video screens, one of which stood nearly 30 feet high in the center of the stage, Stewart didn't bring any extra musical baggage to his performance, delivering just what was needed to wow this crowd of aging 40-something rock fans.
With his signature sandy blonde rooster cropped hairdo, and dressed in a blue jacket, Hawaiian shirt and black trousers apparently stolen from Mick Jagger, Stewart along with a rocking six-piece band complete with three male backup singers and smoking sax player, tore through familiar numbers from his past such as "Stay With Me", a number from his early 70's band The Faces, "Do You Think I'm Sexy" and the funky "Hot Legs". Tapping into his wealth of hits from his solo career, such as "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)", "You're In My Heart", "Reason To Believe" and "Some Guys Have All The Luck" he shuffled and strutted from side to side of the stage interacting with the crowd, shaking hands, taking an occasional sip of a fan's beer, receiving flowers from female admirers and kicking and headbutting over a dozen soccer balls into the audience throughout the evening, Stewart being a longtime avid soccer player and fan himself.
Predictably, the evenings highlight's were "(I Know) I'm Losing You", which mixed hard rock, blues, gospel with vintage raspy Rod, and his biggest hit "Maggie May" which Stewart let the audience do a good majority of the vocal work. Surprising enough though, a few of songs from his new album were show stealers in their own right. A stomping, bump-and-grind cover of Oasis' "Cigarettes And Alcoho", which opened the show, sounded more like vintage Stones than the bickering-British-brat-brothers."Ooh La La", another Faces song which Stewart revisits on When We The New Boys, had an infectious sing-along quality to it that had the audience miming along whether they knew the words or not. And on "Rocks", a high voltage cover from alt-rockers Primal Scream, Rod showed his fans he was not about to let age slow him down.
Wearing his trademark grin the entire evening and apparently having the time of his life performing old favorites, and more importantly, pulling off his newer material remarkably well, Rod proved that, even in his middle-fifties, blondes can still have more fun.
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