When you've got a back catalog as extensive as Rod Stewart does, spanning nearly 40 years, it's going to be tough to please all of your fans in one sitting. Still, when you forsake the bulk of your earliest, best material in favor of some of your lamest, more recent songs, a guest spot from your aspiring 17-year-old daughter and a batch of ill-advised covers, you're not giving yourself very good odds.
It certainly didn't bode well for the rest of the night when Stewart opened his Tucson appearance last week with one of his lamest--1988's vapid "Forever Young"--before venturing into guilty-pleasure territory with "Young Turks." Over the course of about 2 1/2 hours, Stewart didn't play a single song by his excellent former band, the Faces, but did manage to massacre the already horrible "Addicted to Love" in a tribute to his late "drinking pal," Robert Palmer. Still, the audience of about 4,000 didn't seem to mind.
Comprising mostly upscale couples and middle-aged groups of women, the crowd was putty in Stewart's hands throughout--the ladies screamed like giddy teens at a Justin Timberlake show every time the ageless singer made the slightest animated gesture.
The performance itself was split into two sets: The first was set against a slick, all-white backdrop with a standard band and three female backup singers--ostensibly the rock set--while the second had the band joined by a large string section, all seated at an old-fashioned bandstand like you might see in a black-and-white musical from the 1940s. It was during this set that Stewart delved into songs from his recent pair of albums of standards like "The Way You Look Tonight" and "As Time Goes By"--tunes that are timeless for a reason (i.e., they're nigh impossible to fuck up). A giant video screen projected various accompanying eye candy during both.
In between countless outfit changes, Stewart managed to hit upon every era of his solo career, from "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Maggie May" to "Some Guys Have All the Luck" and "The Rhythm of My Heart." Gripes about omitted songs aside, Stewart was utterly charming and in fine voice throughout--the rare, post-middle-age sex symbol that's also a complete ham. It was all almost enough to forgive him for not playing "Ooh La La." Almost.