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The Music Scene

Posted: 1:11 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013

Concert review: Rod Stewart charming and generous at Philips Arena 

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Rod Stewart
Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC
Rod Stewart still puts plenty of effort into his live shows.


Rod Stewart 2 photo
Akili-Casundria Ramsess
Stewart played on a sleek, open stage, but he was still the focal point.
Rod Stewart 3 photo
Akili-Casundria Ramsess
Stewart still wears it well.
Steve Winwood photo
Akili-Casundria Ramsess
Steve Winwood's set touched on all aspects of his career.

By Melissa Ruggieri

[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest music news. Tune in to hear what's up!]

From the first prance across the stage to “This Old Heart of Mine” in his shiny silver suit to the balloon drop celebrating “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” nearly two hours later, Rod Stewart charmed with his lighthearted stage presence and an endless string of hits.

Like peers Billy Joel, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen, Stewart could be on stage for 12 hours and probably not cover every song in his five-decade career.

But on Saturday at Philips Arena, he gave it a hearty try by plowing through nearly two dozen songs with his slickly professional ensemble – a three-piece horn section, a trio of backup singers and a seven-piece band.

Though surrounded by a sleek, open stage and towers of video screens, Stewart was always the focal point – sometimes because of his blinding outfits (the silver suit gave way to a fuchsia jacket and gold socks and, later, peach pants and a multi-patterned blue jacket and shirt) – but usually because of his gregarious stage presence.

It seems there is no embarrassing Stewart, and God bless him for his shamelessness.

Sometimes he strolled the stage like a dapper lothario (“Tonight’s the Night”). Other times (“You Wear it Well” and the bouncy “Some Guys Have All the Luck”) he spanked his own rear and frolicked through goofy dance moves.

Stewart also took a moment to recall the old days in Atlanta with a sly smile (something he also discussedin our recent interview).

“I’ve had some mad moments in this town,” he said. “Back in the ‘80s, I got myself into a lot of trouble in Atlanta.”

He’s an infectious presence, not that this audience – which filled about 2/3 of the arena – needed any prompting.

The women swooned when Stewart began and ended the melancholy “Downtown Train” on bended knee and even those who wrinkled their noses at his disco-influenced period sang along to “Young Turks,” the meat in the “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and “Livin’ On a Prayer” sandwich constructed of Anthems of Youthful Defiance.

Granted, these days Stewart sings in a lower key on some hits (it also sounded as if he confused lyrics in a couple of tunes), but overall his warm rasp was robust, particularly on “Rhythm of My Heart” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

What makes Stewart a particularly endearing performer – and one capable of drawing crowds in Vegas, where he’ll head for most of November after this short tour with Steve Winwood wraps – is that he isn’t untouchable.

He likes to share pieces of his life, whether it’s done by showing photos of his dad during “You Can’t Stop Me Now,” a fun pop-rocker from his notable new album, “Time,” or broadcasting his devotion to the Celtic Football Club (a few fans in the crowd sported Celtic gear and some threw their hats and scarves on stage).

He’s added more of a personal touch this tour – which played Europe over the summer, but only began in the U.S. on Thursday – by giving his daughter Ruby a showcase for her soulful ballad, “Just One More Day.”

The girl is a belter like her dad, and also shared a sweet duet with him on “Forever Young,” which was heightened with a mid-song percussion breakdown (by the way, it will surprise no one that almost half of Stewart’s talented band is comprised of foxy ladies clad in short, glittery dresses).

Stewart took a break from his onstage shenanigans for an acoustic set featuring an eight-piece orchestra of local musicians. Harp accents and some gorgeous soloing from guitarist Don Kirkpatrick and fiddler (and multi-instrumentalist) J'Anna Jacoby freshened up the well-worn “Have I Told You Lately” and “Reason to Believe.”

But of course the highlight of any Stewart show comes with the houselights-up singalong of “You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” and the kicking of the personally autographed soccer balls during “Hot Legs.”

At 68, Stewart still puts an impressive amount of effort into his show. He could have easily trotted out a dozen hits and called it a night, but he’s still working hard for his money.

Fans might recall that when Stewart last played Philips Arena in March 2011, hewas joined by Stevie Nicks.

For this tour, he’s swapped Stevie’s and brought along his old friend and masterful musician, Steve Winwood.

Opening his hour-long set with the sedate “Rainmaker,” Winwood and his accomplished four-piece band immediately broke into an extended jazz-funk jam, the first of several musical journeys that touched on his career in the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and a successful solo period.

Though initially seated comfortably behind his organ, Winwood soon slipped out and strapped on a guitar for Blind Faith’s timeless “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

He is as nimble a guitarist as he is a keyboardist, and his gritty vocals still fit his songs beautifully.

A highlight came with Traffic’s “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” its intoxicating brew of psychedelic jazz-rock escalated by a phenomenal guitar solo by Jose Neto.

Most in the crowd, though, didn’t start paying full attention until the familiar notes of “Higher Love” – given a percussive, organic coating – and the rousing “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

Winwood might not be as a familiar radio presence as Stewart, but his inclusion on this tour is fortunate for classic rock fans. 

Rod Stewart set list

“This Old Heart of Mine”

 Tonight’s the Night”

“Having a Party”

“You Wear It Well”

“Some Guys Have All the Luck”

“Downtown Train”

“Young Turks”

“Rhythm of My Heart”

“Just One More Day” (Ruby Stewart)

“Forever Young”

“The First Cut is the Deepest”

“Have I Told You Lately”

“Reason to Believe”

“Brighton Beach”

“You Can’t Stop Me Now”

“Sweet Little Rock and Roll”

“I’d Rather Go Blind”

“Proud Mary” (backup singers)

“You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)”

“Hot Legs”

“Maggie May”

“Da Ya Think I’m Sexy”

Melissa Ruggieri

About Melissa Ruggieri

Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment and maintains the Atlanta Music Scene blog on accessAtlanta.

Connect with Melissa Ruggieri on:TwitterFacebook

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