If there’s one thing you can say about Rod Stewart, it’s that he loves being Rod Stewart.
This includes his voice, still remarkably soulful and powerful after five decades; his charisma, which was barely contained by Madison Square Garden Monday night (December 9); his song catalog, packed with hits from the ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s, which still seems to be a work in progress. Monday’s set included “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from last year’s Merry Christmas Baby and “Can’t Stop Me Now” and “Brighton Beach” from this year’s Time. Oh, and the fact that he’s still surrounding himself by beautiful girls, including two-thirds of his horn section, three backing singers, a violinist and even a harp player.
Stewart’s biggest skill — other than singing — is playing the audience. From the minute he bounded onstage to his cover of the Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart Of Mine” to the last notes of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” he was as much a virtuoso at hamming it up as support act Steve Winwood is on keyboards and guitar.
Easily sliding between his ’70s classics (“You Wear It Well,” “Stay With Me,” “Tonight’s The Night”) and what some might refer to as his kitschier later material (“Rhythm Of My Heart,” “Some Guys Have All The Luck”) Stewart is comfortable singing any of his hits, regardless of how the rock intelligentsia has graded them. Which makes sense: after all, to the chagrin of many of his purist fans (not to mention his long-suffering bandmates in the Faces), he’s been doing a lot of Vegas shows lately (check him out at Caesar’s Palace in May of 2014!).