Last night, Rod Stewart conquered Las Vegas. Opening a two-year run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace - where he will alternate with Céline Dion and Elton John - he had the audience of 4,100 on their feet, singing and cheering.
Whip-thin and moving as he did years ago, Stewart came out resplendent in a shocking pink jacket that matched the sequins on his backup singers' dresses. Backed by very talented musicians, he performed them all. There were none of the standards from the Great American Songbook (the music Michael Feinstein called recently, "The Rod Steward Songbook"). The show is called Rod Stewart: The Hits. And that's what it was for an hour and 40 minutes. All of his hits from the beginning.
He kicked it off with Infatuation and quickly moved on to Tonight's The Night, explaining, "Tonight's the first night of a two-year run. It will be on and off, like my sex life." His own hits included Forever Young and You're In My Heart, during which he showcased his love of football (soccer) and, most especially, the Celtic Football Club, whose logo decorated the drum kit on the stage. There was also a photo tribute to Scottish footballer Tommy Burns, clearly a cherished friend of Stewart's, who died in 2008. As if that weren't enough, Stewart tossed autographed footballs into the audience.
We heard Downtown Train, Twisting the Night Away, Broken Arrow, Reason to Believe, Hot Legs, Maggie May, Some Guys Have All The Luck and, for his encore, Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Stewart paid tribute to Sam Cooke, who he cited as a major influence, by singing Having A Party. As he sang Every Picture Tells A Story, photos of him back in the day (the 1970s, mostly) flashed on the screen behind him. They were fun to see. Makes you wonder how that hair was ever in style.
Born in the UK, Stewart made a point of noting he lives in the US and, thus, dedicated a beautiful Rhythm of My Heart to veterans and military personnel today. The video backdrop began with World War II news film and ended with gently waving American flags. A nice moment.
Also noteworthy was his performance of his 1976 song, The Killing of Georgie, about his friend Georgie who was killed in New York by a gang because he was homosexual. Stewart noted that, when released in 1976, the song was "controversial." Maybe, but it holds up very well and was wonderful to hear.
Stewart appeared to be having a ball. He even shared his favorite video "of a silly dog" that was, indeed, very funny. His ultra-talented backup singers performed when he changed clothes, as did his drummer Dave Palmer, who performed an awesome solo.
The stage in the Colosseum is huge, 120 feet wide with an arch that is 45 feet high. Elton John complained about its size to his audience and Bette Midler, who is very small, raced to move across it. But Stewart used it to good effect. The lighting was spectacular, too. The only bit of staging that should be changed is when, in a bit about Las Vegas being the nation's "wedding central," he and the singers sit in the middle of the stage and the curtains are only partially drawn. During that time, anyone not sitting directly in the center of the theater has an obstructed view, thus missing out on the material shown on the screen. That's not necessary and is an easy fix.
I had seen Rod Stewart only once before, in concert at Jones Beach on Long Island. At the time, he wasn't singing Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? And, because I thought not doing it weakened the show, I never saw him again until last evening.
As the show unfolded, I realized how much of Rod Stewart's work is a part of the soundtrack of contemporary life. His catalog is a rich one, the songs still as enjoyable as the first time we heard them, the performer, still giving his all, looking great and, because he's having such a good time, ensuring the audience does as well. I am now a fan. This is a must-see show.
Tickets are $49 to $250 plus tax and fees. You can order them at the Caesars Palace website: www.caesarspalace.com/casinos/caesars-palace/casino-entertainment/rod-stewart-detail.html