Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019

Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019Rod Stewart @ Molineux Stadium, 8 June 2019


Having been in the music business for almost sixty years, the big question hanging over a Rod Stewart tour is whether his trademark raspy voice has survived such endless abuse? The thing is, lesser singers are unable to remain singing in a way that causes damage to their vocal chords, and they either change their style or end up causing irreparable damage. Somehow Rod Stewart has not only evaded the medical profession, but more importantly still sings in the same instantly recognisable way, and he sounds as good as he ever did.

What is immediately evident from the setlist is that although this tour is promoting his new album ‘Blood Red Shoes’, he is not beating his fans into submission playing a set full of its songs. Only two tracks appear, both covers, the traditional Irish folk song ‘Grace’ and the oddly chosen set closer ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’’, a blues classic made famous by Muddy Waters. On previous nights I notice that the setlist is slightly different each time and only the final song features. The remainder of the set then is pure classic back catalogue and is a dream come true for casual fan and true fanatic alike. Even set opener ‘Infatuation’ from his less than classic 80’s period is still a stormer and quickly followed by bona fide hits ‘Young Turks’ and ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’, with a Sam Cooke cover thrown in for good measure as it is Saturday night and time to party.

From the moment the show starts, the 20,000 plus crowd is on its feet and even at 50, being one of the younger members of the audience, I have to say I am a little surprised by the energy levels across the stadium; there is a tangible excitement from every corner of the Molineux and voices are raised throughout singing along with their hero. In fact before the first slow number of the night, ‘Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)’, Rod actually requests that everyone sit down and take a breather. There is a collective sigh and cracking of backs as everyone slips back into the comfort of a hard plastic seat and listens to Rod’s soothing anthem to a night of not denying your man’s desire and letting him come inside… you can tell these lyrics were written during the unenlightened 70’s. But still, cringeworthy lyrics or not, it is a great song and blinding performance, supported vocally by every single member of the audience, who are encouraged to take over by Rod himself and then applauded for our efforts. Regardless of my personal feelings for singers holding out the microphone to the audience, it is an awesome sound we make in that stadium.

The crowd are soon on its feet again as the juggernaut show ploughs on with classic after classic. The wondrous “song with no real chorus but it didn’t need one because everyone sings the whole song anyway” ‘Maggie May’ is staggering and lifts the audience higher. Rod laughs part way through it when he sings the wrong words to his own song, and afterwards talks about how after singing it for almost fifty years he wouldn’t think it possible. There is a lot of in between song interaction and the international superstar comes over as a pretty down to earth bloke, which is as refreshing as it is surprising. At one point he talks about how even after a lifetime as a successful musician he still finds himself on a stage with an audience as big and adoring as this one and asks himself how the hell did he get here? I guess my answer would firstly direct him to the list of amazing songs he wrote and covered, and then remind him how he somehow appeals to both men and women in equal amounts – he is a bloke and at the same time a sexy bastard. Men want to be like him and women want to be with him: a powerfully magnetic personality. And on top of that a voice that aches with emotion and is raw and human; such a irresistible combination.

There are many highlights tonight, but for me ‘The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)’ is as beautiful as the record; the dedication to the D-Day veterans before a heart wrenching version of ‘Rhythm of My Heart’ is emotional; but hearing my favourite of his songs ‘You’re in My Heart’ live goes unsurpassed; however, when the stadium is lit up by tens of thousands of torches for the timeless ‘Sailing’ it comes very close.

My only criticism is when Rod’s faultless band take the spotlight while he changes his outfits. They do this a few times, for an extended drum solo and then for two whole songs: showcasing his stunning lead guitarist for ‘Going Home (Theme from Local Hero)’ and then his backing singers on ‘She Works Hard for the Money’. I understand that these sections add a little contrast and give Rod a little moment to recharge, but like many around me who become disinterested, it seems like a unnecessary addition to what is a great show.

The set design is well thought out and looks stunning, with massive video screens all around and within the stage: when you can just about see Rod in the flesh from the back of the Stan Culls Stand, it really helps that his every move is captured on camera and displayed on fifty foot crystal clear screens.

The only point in the show that didn’t work fully for me is the final minutes. Rod plays two of his biggest hits ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ and ‘Baby Jane’ and there is a half-hearted wave goodbye before starting the blues standard ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’’ from the new album. It’s a song that’s probably fun to play but not really a set closer, but it is and when the song ends there is a wave and the stage lights go out. Before there is time to consider whether there will be another encore, fireworks blast off into the night sky from behind the stage. There is the obligatory oohs and aahs from the crowd and then the houselights come on. Boom! It’s over. After such an inspiring performance the finale is a bit of damp squib: all lights and bangs, but lacking the heart and honesty of the previous two hours. I guess the show climaxed too early, while we are waiting for that little bit more. Such a common problem.

Despite my minor gripes the show is an absolute blast and thoroughly enjoyable. Rod Stewart is still absolutely on top of his game and this tour packs an enormous punch while still revealing much about the superstar, who despite being one of the most successful artists of the last fifty years, delivers an honest and enlightening performance. Throughout the show he engages with his fans, talking about his life, football, his worries and his career, like he is talking to a friend one to one… an endearing attribute. Also and more importantly the banter is not scripted to the last word like with some other superstars I could mention; there is a sense that every show is from the heart and it is real.

What I love most about Rod Stewart is that he understands the pain of being unfulfilled: despite desperately wanting to sing like Sam Cooke his whole life and knowing he never could, he didn’t give in but instead found his own voice… a voice that is loved by millions around the world, and a sound that delights the Wolverhampton crowd tonight.

Rod Stewart returns to the UK later this year for a series of indoor shows and it is certainly not one to be missed.

Setlist:
Infatuation
Having a Party
Young Turks
Some Guys Have All The Luck
Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
Forever Young
Rhythm of My Heart
Maggie May
The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)
Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me)
I’d Rather Go Blind
Sweet Little Rock & Rolle
Downtown Train
Going Home: Theme from Local Hero

Grace
I Don’t Want to Talk About It
The First Cut Is the Deepest
You’re in My Heart
Have I Told You Lately

She Works Hard for the Money
Twistin’ the Night Away
Sailing
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?
Baby Jane
Rollin’ and Tumblin’

Review: Alan Neilson
Photos: Andy Watson

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