Rod Stewart Mixes Pub Rock With Disco Before U.S. Tour

Photographer: Paul Bergen/AFP/Getty Images

Rod Stewart is playing dates across the U.K. before a North American tour and Las Vegas residency. Close

Rod Stewart is playing dates across the U.K. before a North American tour and Las Vegas residency.

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Photographer: Paul Bergen/AFP/Getty Images

Rod Stewart is playing dates across the U.K. before a North American tour and Las Vegas residency.

Rod Stewart is set to make Caesar’s Palace the best London pub.

He will start his Las Vegas residency on Nov. 6.

A razzle-dazzle star with a rough and ready common touch and a set list of old favorites, he has just converted London’s cavernous O2 Arena into what feels like the greatest of nights out in the local boozer.

Stewart arrives onstage dressed in black offset with a cerise jacket and tie, crisply yellow socks and immaculately polished shoes.

Later he changes into reasonably tight white jeans and a shirt swirling with various shades of blue that perhaps only veteran pop stars who collect sports cars and have bedded a runway’s worth of models can get away with.

Stewart is still the plumber’s son from North London.

“You can beat an egg, you can beat a carpet, but you can’t beat a Friday night,” he announces to the audience, before asking, wholly unnecessarily, “Have you been drinking?”

Stewart’s blue-collar approach makes Bruce Springsteen look like Radiohead. There’s nothing arch or analytical. He simply matches emotional candor and clear-headed pathos.

Or, as he would more likely put it, he takes everyday feelings and nails them on the head.

“She Makes Me Happy,” from Stewart’s new album “Time,” is as joyful as the title suggests.

Teen Romance

“Brighton Beach,” another new song, reminisces about an ill-fated teenage romance. It’s dedicated to Sarah, Stewart’s first daughter who, according to the eminently readable (and frequently hilarious) “Rod: the Autobiography,” was probably conceived there when Stewart was about 18.

Another family indulgence proves to be a dud. Stewart brings on his daughter, Ruby, to sing two songs. Technically proficient, she entirely lacks charisma.

Some moments are remarkably unreconstructed. A group of female musicians are dressed in ridiculously tiny leopard print dresses to drum out vaguely tribal rhythms. It makes Stewart seem like a (Ray Harryhausen-animated) dinosaur.

There are no surprises and yet lots of fun. Stewart plays his influences: rock ’n’ roll (a frisky cover of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Rock ’n’ Roller,” which he’s been doing for years) and classic soul (Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party.”) He sings “Hot Legs” while kicking signed soccer balls into the crowd.

“Sailing” is imbued with an unexpected swell of poignancy. “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” is, entirely as expected, shamelessly corny. Played for all its worth, it is also a lot more palatable (and much more fun) than its modern-day equivalent, Robin Thicke’s noxious “Blurred Lines.”

The lad’s still a rock ’n’ roll superstar.

Rating: ****.

Rod Stewart tours the U.K. through Oct. 5, moving to the U.S. on Oct. 17. His Caesar’s Place shows run Nov. 6 through Nov. 24 before continuing a North American tour including New York on Dec. 9. Information: http://www.rodstewart.com

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Fantastic
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         So-so
*          Poor
(No star)  Avoid

(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Martin Gayford on art, Warwick Thompson on U.K. theater and Elin McCoy on wine.

To contact the writer on the story: Robert Heller in London at roberthelleruk@yahoo.co.uk

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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