Rod Stewart At Madison Square Garden, Monday, December 9th, 2013, Reviewed
There is still no crime in giving people precisely what they bought and there is no crime in growing old and missing a step and Rod Stewart did exactly that in his “Live The Life” concert at Madison Square Garden, Monday: he gave the people what they wanted and he missed a step. 30 months since the last time I saw Rod in 2011, a concert I reviewed here as “a stunning and glorious 90 minute plus trip down memory lane, played so well, taken earnestly but without an ounce of camp, it was a lesson in superstardom.”
The years caught up with him Monday. Three long breaks, including a five minute drum solo by one of his session player backs, a song by his daughter Ruby which left no impression, and a cover of “Proud Mary” by his backup singers that left less impression, stalled momentum constantly and when he did get it together his voice was hoarse, he seemed game but gamey and every song with three exceptions he has sung before and better.
The exceptions was an exceptional “Stay With Me” with the “Sit down, stand up get out” hook returned to its place of honor, and two excellent new songs off his excellent new album Time, both of them were easily the best moments of the evening. The remembrance of a teenage romance (from which he has a 50 year old daughter) “Brighton Beach” might be, as Rod claims, just too personal but the newness (Rod had saved he thought he’d never write again) and the freshness bring him completely to life. Just as good is the rocker, “Can’t Stop Me Now”. Both are songs about beginning, one in the world of romance and the other is in his career, which Rod, quite movingly thanks his father for the early support.
The rest of the evening is nearly exactly what it was only not quite good enough; Rod is eager and friendly but his voice lacks range and suppleness, and the songs have been sung just once too often and he isn’t getting enough of them. Complaining about even relatively late era like “Some Guys Have All The Luck” and “Rhythm Of My Heart” is a fool’s errand and I enjoyed Rod’s straight up take but only up the place where he isn’t getting them entirely. It sounds a little too rough round the endges, too husky, the melody isn’t getting chased down.
What he gets away with, he gets away with in an old pros punch, he can’t sing “I’d rather Go Blind” but he can fall to his knees when singing it and give it everything he has. It’s enough. And if he just kept to that and stopped pacing himself through the set, maybe it would have been the equal of the 2011 concert.
Rod doesn’t and it isn’t. Maybe it is time to rethink how he presents himself.