One of the big reveals during Rod Stewart’s Hollywood Bowl concert Tuesday evening was the title and release month for his long-awaited new album: Blood Red Roses, due in September. The other big reveal? Now 73 years young, the rock legend remains the consummate showman.
With seven-plus years having elapsed since his last concerts in Los Angeles, Sir Rod more than made up for lost time on the second night of a two-date homecoming gig featuring special guest Cyndi Lauper. Some longtime fans may have been expecting a memory-lane primer of Stewart’s biggest hits. But while the singer/songwriter did include a hearty dose of career touchstones (“Maggie May,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “You’re in My Heart,” “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” among others; but no “Young Turks” or “Hot Legs”), he balanced his crowd-pleasing, 21-song set with a liberal sprinkling of covers (“Having a Party,” “Have I Told You Lately”). He also introduced a new song from his upcoming album (“Hole in My Heart”).
Among additional highlights from Stewart’s nearly two-hour show:
* Backed by a tight-knit band (featuring two female violinists and female harpist and percussionist) and a powerful trio of background singers, Stewart never allowed himself to be overshadowed as he pumped his way through spirited songs such as “Sexy” and the anthem-turned-audience-sing-along “Forever Young.” But the singer’s raw vocals really shined on the ballads comprising his set. His heart-rending delivery of the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” paved the way for an unplugged suite of five songs that opened with “The Killing of Georgie,” Stewart’s compelling 1976 single about a gay man killed in New York City. “We haven’t played this in a while,” said Stewart, “and just rehearsed it today. So we’ll give it a go.” The result? Stewart still possesses a keen sense of how to interpret and own a song — whether written by him or other songwriters — and make listeners feel it from the inside out. Rounding out the suite: “You’re in My Heart,” “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” “Talk About It” and “Have I Told You Lately.”
* Stewart introduced new song “Hole in My Heart” by saying it was inspired by his days as a twenty-something running around with the ladies. Before launching into the fist-pumping rock track, he noted — to audience laughter — one lesson he learned back then: “When your girlfriend leaves you and you can’t cook, you’re f–ked.” Featuring the hook “There’s a hole in my heart where she used to be,” the song drew strong positive reaction from the packed Bowl. But that wasn’t the only new song that Stewart introduced. The night before, he performed “Grace,” which will appear on Blood Red Roses. An official announcement about the album and its worldwide release date is coming shortly.
* Lauper joined Stewart onstage early in the show for an energetic take on Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” which Lauper recorded in 2010. After their duet, Lauper asked Stewart about his having recorded the song as well for his new album. He demurred, saying only, “We have so many tracks, I don’t know yet.” Lauper’s own strong opening set included the gems “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” “Money Changes Everything” and set opener “I Drove All Night.” After tweaking the hook on signature hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” to “girls want to have fun-damental rights” (inspired by the Women’s March), she later elicited a standing ovation as she closed her set with the socially conscious anthem “True Colors.”
* An LA resident since 1975, Stewart also interspersed nods to his roots in London (“where I was born”) and Glasgow (“my spiritual home”) throughout the evening. Bagpipes could be heard at the stroke of 9 p.m. before the black-and-white-checkered curtain was raised and Stewart’s band jump-started the evening with a rollicking version of the Bar-Kays’ “Soul Finger.” At one point in the show, the female backing trio and female musicians changed into red tartan miniskirts. Not to be outdone fashion-wise, a sartorially splendent Stewart began the show in a silver jacket, black pants and sparkly silver sneakers and later donned a gold-brocade patterned jacket and matching slacks — an ensemble that drew its own applause. And in another nod to his roots and World Cup fervor, an agile Stewart kicked a number of soccer balls out to frantically scrambling fans before closing with “Stay With Me” and “Sailing.”
Stewart and Lauper’s summer tour ends Sept. 1 in Seattle, with forthcoming stops in Charlotte, North Carolina (July 26); Nashville (Aug. 1); New York (Aug. 7); Indianapolis (Aug. 18); and San Francisco (Aug. 29). Stewart has since added three shows of his own in the fall: Laughlin, Nevada (Oct. 20); Boise, Idaho (Oct. 24, rescheduled from April 12); and Billings, Montana (Oct. 26, rescheduled from April 14). Then he will return to Las Vegas for another run at Caesars (Nov. 21-Dec. 2).