Entertainment Music

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Rod Stewart: 74 years old - but what a 74 years

Rod Stewart and a warm summer night by the banks of the Lee. So what's not to love, asks Barry Egan?

Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart

Last night, he was yours. A little old-fashioned, but that's alright.

The reigning king of blue-eyed soul Rod Stewart wore it wear in front of 35,000 people, arms aloft, at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Opening with the finger-snapping magic of Infatuation to the stirring tale of young-love -on -the-run Young Hearts Run Free , quickly followed by Hole In My Heart, You Wear It Well and then Tonight's The Night, Rod transported the audience to a place of wonder.

"It's Saturday night and let's enjoy ourselves and forget about Trump and hard/soft borders," he implored the crowd who were dancing in the aisles like Cork had just won the All-Ireland. For some of them it was probably like the greatest wedding they had ever been at as Rod played all the hits, like Baby Jane and Maggie May (which he dedicated to his wife Penny who was only born in 1971 - the same year he wrote the song).

For fans like me, it was a masterclass in soul and rhythm and blues - the music that first inspired Rod as a teenager in North London when he gave up measuring graves to follow his dream. Mercifully for us he did, too, as last night Rod delivered us with a raspy voice that at times could have matched his hero Sam Cooke for its transcending soulfulness. Especially on Have I Told You Lately and Rather Go Blind. This man was on fire. Moving about the stage with a winning gusto and energy that betrayed his age, Rodders does old school stagecraft like no other, with the possible exception of Jagger. It is in his DNA that he knows how to put on a show. Every song made s persuasive claim to being a masterpiece from Memphis or Detroit in another time and era last night in Cork or at least something that you would sing along to and remember long after the concert was over. That's all that music can do for us. Like Van Morrison, the only other singer who can touch him, Rod relies on intuition and alchemy with his band to bring the songs alive in front of an audience. It is all about sound and feel especially when Rod gets lost in those moments of utter exultation of songs like Grace, Twisting, plus the aching power of Cat Stevens' The First Cut is the Deepest, and the aforementioned Young Hearts Run Free.

Rod might be 74 - might be wearing leopard-print shoes and have a haircut that refuses to come into fashion - but he sang Young Hearts like a song that Bruce Springsteen could have written with a sincerity that marks Rod's vocal style. That's why he can sing soul. Because you believe he is feeling what he is singing about.

He can sing sadness (the homosexual murder of The Killing of Georgie; the inspiring melancholy of Sailing, "to be near you, to be free"), he can sing blues, folk, rock, and of course, disco-era lust.

Rod once described Do Ya Think I'm Sexy as "a pink toilet seat hung around my neck for the rest of my life" but when Rod is in full alpha male flow I was thinking that had Freddie Mercury done this with Queen, we'd be re-visting it as a slightly bonkers retro camp classic of its epoch.

Cork, consider yourself blessed last night.

Sunday Independent

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