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Jeff Moehlis: Never a Dull Moment with Rod Stewart

The legendary singer rocks it at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Rod Stewart Click to view larger
A bulky leg cast doesn’t slow down Rod Stewart during his concert Oct. 21 at the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

When legendary singer Rod Stewart came onstage at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Oct. 21, the audience was a bit shocked to see that he had a bulky cast on his right foot. He revealed that he had hurt it playing football, but declared, "The show must go on!" And that it did, with the cast barely slowing him down.

Stewart kicked it off in 1980s mode with "Infatuation" and "Some Guys Have All the Luck." His voice sounded great, and he even jumped around a bit on his good foot.

The very large backing band was absolutely stellar, with two drummers, two guitarists, three background vocalists, a percussionist, a bass guitarist, a sax player and two multi-instrumentalists who at various times played violin, banjo, guitar and mandolin. The staging was particularly cool, with lots of high-definition graphics accompanying the music.

The next song, "Rhythm of My Heart," was dedicated to "our brave soldiers, living or who have fallen." Toward the end of the song, there was a video of Stewart getting knighted by Prince William in 2016 for services to music and charity, which brought a roar from the crowd.

He followed by paying homage to his influences with a rockin' cover of the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' and Tumblin'," which is also on his new album, Blood Red Roses, his 30th studio album. This was followed by another track off the new album, "Look In Her Eyes," not a new classic but enjoyable enough.

Stewart then drew some unplanned laughs when he yelled out, "Stay forever young, my friends!" and the band started playing a much slower song than he led us to expect.

After apologies, this turned out to be his first visit to the 1970s with "Tonight's the Night," which had the audience belting out the chorus. But have no fear, "Forever Young" came next, with an extended Celtic instrumental break.

Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart belts out one of his classic tunes. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

Stewart came back wearing a flashy new outfit and sang his first solo hit, "Maggie May," the tale of a young man doubting his relationship with an older woman. Amusingly, he pointed out that this song came out the year that his wife was born, 1971. Age is a funny thing in matters of love.

He then did a pair of cover songs, the first paying tribute to another influence, Chuck Berry, with "Sweet Little Rock & Roller," and the second revisiting his hit with the Tom Waits song "Downtown Train."

For the latter, he joked that Waits' publicist said that Stewart's version had built "a roof on his new house, and a swimming pool for his kids."

Next up was an acoustic medley of hits from the 1970s, namely "I Don't Want to Talk About It," "The First Cut Is the Deepest" and "You're In My Heart."

This showed Stewart's more vulnerable side, but he defused this somewhat afterward with the quip that with a medley, "I don't know if I like it or not, because we don't get any applause between the songs."

He then went full-on sentimental with Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately," really belting it out at the end.

The energy returned with a rousing band-only cover of Ike and Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits." This was followed the highlight of the evening, to me at least: the swaggering "Stay With Me" originally recorded by the Faces, with the added touch that Stewart's cute sons, Aiden and Alastair, kicked soccer balls into the audience during the song.

The main set closed with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?," which always seemed more than a bit embarrassing to me, but hey, it was the 1970s.

But make no mistake, it's a fun song in concert. The show's encore was the song "Sailing."

Not even a foot cast can take down Stewart, as he gave it his all for an hour and a half of music. It was a shock when the lights came back on, well before the Bowl curfew.

Sure, there were plenty more hits that could've been on the program — "Young Turks" and "Hot Legs" spring to mind — but it was still an amazing night. To borrow the title one of his early albums, there was "Never a Dull Moment."

Setlist

» Scotland the Brave (Intro)

» Big Country (Intro)

» Soul Finger (The Bar‐Kays cover) (band only)

» Infatuation

» Some Guys Have All the Luck

» Rhythm of My Heart

» Rollin' and Tumblin' (Hambone Willie Newbern/Muddy Waters cover)

» Look In Her Eyes

» Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)

» Forever Young

» Maggie May

» Sweet Little Rock & Roller (Chuck Berry cover)

» Downtown Train (Tom Waits cover)

» Medley: I Don't Want to Talk About It / The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover) / You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)

» Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison cover)

» Nutbush City Limits (Ike & Tina Turner cover) (band only)

» Stay With Me (Faces song)

» Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?

Encore

» Sailing (Sutherland Brothers cover)

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

Rod Stewart Click to view larger
High-definition graphics accompany the music during Rod Stewart’s concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

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