Friday 23 March 2018

Rod still wears it well. . .

In the 1970s, he looked like Rudolf Nureyev having robbed a ladies' satin boutique, but Rod Stewart still has one of the great voices, writes Barry Egan in advance of Rod's Kilkenny show

Rod Stewart brings his Hits Tour to Kilkenny on Saturday.
Rod Stewart brings his Hits Tour to Kilkenny on Saturday.

You'd have to have asked my late mother. It was possibly the best gig I ever saw. And I was only four years of age at the time: The Faces live on the BBC in January, 1972. Wearing a white satin jacket, Rod Stewart was in his prime, both vocally and aesthetically, next to his band of brothers: Ronnie Wood on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Lane on bass guitar, Ian McLagan on keyboard and Kenny Jones on drums. (Rod's brotherly side extended to picking Nick Kent off the bathroom floor in the early 1970s after the NME journo had overdosed on smack; the story is recounted in Kent's tome Apathy For The Devil.)

The Boston Phoenix noted approvingly of The Faces' libertine if brotherly bar-band wallop - "and their utter lack of Satanic pretension or Tolkien-flavoured twiddling". When Rod belted out Maybe I'm Amazed and Three Button Hand Me Down the world seemed to move on its axis. For that gig, live in my living-room in Henley Park, Churchtown, in Dublin 14, Rod - with his eyes closed, as he hit the notes in those tight-satin pants - was God.

Some 45 years later, Mr Stewart might be much more of a mortal to me, and certainly to the wider world, but he still has that voice. He has one of the greatest, and most soulful, singing voices - up there with Sam Cooke or Van Morrison. This is something his detractors, who believe Rod has betrayed his huge talent, will never be able to take away from him. He can sing the pants off any Indie band from here to Seattle.

Be that as it may, Rod's song quality has dimmed dramatically over the decades (1977's Hot Legs and 1978's Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? were not the worst of it), along with his taste in the mid-1970s for clobber that made him look like Rudolf Nureyev having robbed a ladies' boutique that specialised in silk and satin.

In an interview last year in The Quietus, Rod put the blame for this look squarely at the feet of his girlfriend at the time: Britt Ekland. "She used to make me wear so much make-up that the band would call me 'Avon Calling'. 'Ding dong, here he comes, our singer, The Avon Lady. . .'

"I think I got influenced by the girlfriend at the time, Britt. She made me wear too much eye shadow and things like that. Frilly shirts. Rotten trousers. I mean, glam had been around long before, but I think I may have taken it just a step too far. . ."

Through it all, Rod never lost his gold-plated sense of humour. When Piers Morgan interviewed Rod for CNN in April, 2011, the conversation went something like this . . .

Morgan: "Rod, here we are in the expansive library of your Beverly Hills mansion. I suppose the obvious question as I look around the extraordinary art on the walls, the expensive book collection, the different statues is -"

Stewart: "Are they paid for?"

Morgan: "Can you believe he just turned 66? And became a father for the eighth time? Do you still think he's sexy?"

Stewart: "Never you mind."

There is also the hilarious - if completely unverifiable - tale of a dinner Rod and Van Morrison enjoyed in the early nineties. I might stress up front this was in the days before Van had met and fallen in love with Michelle Rocca, and was single.

"He started chatting up Rachel [Hunter], not knowing she was my wife," Rod recollected to Q Magazine. "When he found out who she was, he started on her sister . . . Bloody nightmare." Needless to say, Rod Stewart performing his Hits Tour this Saturday at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny will be anything but a bloody nightmare. The big-nosed soul belter remains one of the greatest singers of his generation.

Tickets for Rod Stewart's Hits Tour in Kilkenny, June 25, are available from Ticketmaster

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