Rod Stewart, 66, firmly embodies the term "musical icon." The hallmarks of his success include performing in such classic bands as the Jeff Beck Group and the Faces and recording his "Great American Songbook" album series. In 2001, Stewart was the first artist to receive the Chopard Diamond Award from the World Music Awards for sales exceeding 100 million records. On Aug. 24, the London-born singer/songwriter will embark on a new endeavor -- Las Vegas showman -- as he begins a two-year, 52-show residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
Subtitled "The Hits," Stewart's show will focus on "the songs that made me famous," he says, adding that the rest of the show will be surprises. A 13-piece band will provide plenty of opportunities to explore his standards collections, the 40th anniversaries of two of his landmark albums, "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Never a Dull Moment," and material that'll be part of the blues-oriented album he's working on with guitarist Jeff Beck.
Elton John and Celine Dion designed shows that would only play in Las Vegas. What will you have that's Vegas-only?
Stewart: Nothing. It's a rock'n'roll show. There won't be any magicians or midgets, just a good rock show.
When you performed "I Ain't Superstitious" with Jeff Beck at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles in 2009‹the first time the two of you were onstage together in more than 30 years‹it seemed like there was plenty of mileage left in your partnership.
I think Jeff and I created, though we weren't aware of it at the time, a certain amount of magic in the late 1960s. We weren't always the best of friends‹we weren't enemies‹but there's a tremendous amount of respect I have for him. And when you age, no matter what differences you may have had, you become mates again.
How far along are you on the blues album you're recording together?
It won't be strictly a blues album. It'll be 70% blues: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf tracks, a Jimmy Reed track. But we've updated them quite considerably to make them brand-new. We redid Muddy's "Tiger in Your Tank" -- he's turning in his grave. I think they all will: Little Walter, Jimmy Reed. We've thrown them on their heads, these songs. Jeff and I will have a summit meeting [in late May] to decide where we're going to go. There's no rush for this album.
Your blues repertoire is very 1950s, Chess Records-based: Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter.
It just hits you right here [punches himself in the heart]. It's the same for me and Jeff. It's . . . raw emotion, simple music. Three chords that just get you.
Sam Cooke's songs -- "Twisting the Night Away," "Having a Party," "Bring It On Home to Me" -- always seem to make it into your sets. What does he mean to you?
He was my first hero. When I first heard Cooke, I was working as a gravedigger or silkscreen printer making wallpaper while listening to a small transistor radio. Cooke's voice came out of it and I've been hooked ever since. When I sing a Sam Cooke song, I'm so conscious of trying to sing like him. He's the greatest. No Sam, no Rod. I believe that.
Is there any chance of that rumored Faces reunion with Ron Wood?
The trouble with Ronnie, we get together and we mess about, but the thing is, he is still committed to the [Rolling] Stones. Talking for myself and the rest of the band, we need a commitment, not just, "Well, I've got next month off." It doesn't work like that. It's not very professional. If he can give us the time, then I'll commit to that as well. Until he's finished with the Stones, whenever that will be, I can't commit to it. I'd love to. I really would love to.