I knew after the five star experience I never dreamed possible in a lifetime that was Vegas in the spring (which is another story in itself!), that there was much more Rod to look forward to this summer as the Heart & Soul tour was coming to new cities, many of which were on the eastern side of the U.S.
But prior to that announcement, I had decided earlier in the year when it was announced that Rod would be part of the Greenbrier Golf Concert Series that I would go. Then when the cities for Heart and Soul were announced, I was absolutely over the moon with excitement to hear that after five and a half long years, not since the 2007 in the round tour, the lineup for “Heart and Soul” also included a stop in Washington, D.C.! People then told me, “now you don’t need to go all the way down to Greenbrier.” Oh, no? You don’t know me!
Greenbrier will go down as the most exhausting trip in all of the 35 years of my Rod Stewart Concert Traveling Career. I needed to take the four and a half hour drive down there the day before since the ticket was a general admission lawn seat, knowing I would need to be there early the day of the concert in order to get a good spot. I had to stay over an hour out of the way of Greenbrier because all hotels in the area were booked due to the golf tournament. Upon arriving at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds (the concert site) the next day, it was an unpleasant surprise to learn that you needed to have bought the higher priced golf package to get the VIP seating for the concerts. The general admission lawn ticket put me about two football pitches away from the stage and it was exhausting waiting all day in the nearly hundred degree weather. The show, of course, was wonderful but I had to rely on the overhead screen which still felt like an earth to moon distance from the stage.
In all of my travels over the years, I can say there is nothing more special than when Rod comes to your own home town. There is just a different feeling about it like no other. And at long last, “Welcome back to Washington, D.C., Rod!” I prefer to be on the sides in the arena rather than the floor due to the elevation. The ticket I had was a fifth row seat along the side of the stage. Once I got there, I found that what I thought was fifth row turned out to be second row since the side stage extension required the first three rows to be removed. As I sat in my fantastic seat no more than ten feet from the stage extension, I thought I would be shocked if I don’t get a soccer ball tonight, since I was wearing Rod’s favorite shirt. On this night of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Rod gave a Gold Medal performance at the Verizon Center. After his always delightful, “Good evening, my friends!” he said the show would be 90 minutes…or longer if we behaved ourselves. A lady was waving an Olympic flag and there were also some people on the floor waving a big Celtic flag. Needless to say, the Celtic flag rated higher than the Olympic flag did! Rod was in his usual playful mood, showing off his bright yellow socks, and later asking us what we thought of his pink suit. His kids were introduced to us on the big screen as “Celtic Supporters” (we know who put them up to that, Dad!) before “Forever Young”, complete with an update of what they are all doing now, ending with Sean who is still trying to find his way in life. (Wonder what happened to the nightclub he was going to open in Vegas?) David Palmer and Matt O’Connor were asked to come down for a bow after “Downtown Train” as the chairs were arranged for the acoustic set. Rod has been trying to help the boys out with their dating life by telling the audiences that good-looking David hasn’t got a girlfriend, but Matt O’Connor on the other hand, still lives with his Mum. A small orchestra, which was the local Washington Strings joined the acoustic set, which beautifully enhanced songs like “Have I Told You Lately,” and “First Cut Is The Deepest”. It was heartwarming to hear the whole audience singing every word of “Reason To Believe” during the acoustic set. Yeah, Washington, we’ve got it!
When it came time for Hot Legs and the soccer ball kickoff, to my utter dismay and shock, Rod kicked the balls far and high, not many down low in my section, although a man two seats down from me got one. Still, it was a fantastic show that seemed to go by so fast and I thought Rod got a nice response from the audience in Washington, D.C.
Nonetheless, when I got home after the show, I walked into the kitchen at midnight where my husband and daughter were still up and after they asked how the show was and if I got a soccer ball, I announced, “No, I didn’t - Rod Stewart is a jerk!” I explained how I was just 10 feet away from him, wearing his favorite shirt, and he “did-not-even-look-at-me”! I went on to say it’s not like he didn’t see me because he had pointed to me three songs before that. My daughter’s response, “Oh, Mom, you know you love him!” I got the usual teasing, “Maybe he had enough of you in Vegas!” After thinking about it, I realized I have to lower my expectations, after all, he is the entertainer and whatever he chooses to do (or not do) has to be respected. All he owes us is a great show and he always delivers on that! Getting a ball is a bonus - what other entertainers offer a take-home souvenir?
So the next morning, after getting in late the night before, I quickly packed for the overnight visit to Pittsburgh. Worried about the long drive, and remembering the rough time I’d had with Greenbrier, my dear sweet husband decided to come along for the ride simply to chauffer me, even though he had no plans on going to the show. After the nearly 5-hour drive and checking into a hotel outside of the city, he dropped me off at the front door of the Consol Energy Center.
It is always fun to attend a show in another city and check out how things go there. I settled on a 7th row center floor seat at this one because, although I generally prefer the sides because of the elevation, if you’re going to see more than one show, it’s nice to have different viewing angles, too. Since Stevie Nicks remains center stage most of the show, this was the better seat for that. At this show, unlike the previous night in Washington, D.C., Stevie had her vocal coach come out to sing, “Leather and Lace” with her and it was just incredible. Her coach is very comfortable in that role and they sounded beautiful together. Stevie takes a bit of time during her part of the show to explain her visit several years ago to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, ending with saying if we have five bucks to send to them we would honor the soldiers, her, our country and ourselves then sings the song “Soldier’s Angel” that she wrote to honor them. Rod also honors those who served in the wars of past and present who give us our freedom, as he introduces “Rhythm of My Heart” with a salute. I swore the show the night before had a good audience response, but this one really went through the roof with their loud singing! Rod was clearly moved, saying, “You should hear what that sounds like from up here.” A funny thing at this show was when Rod came out after a costume change to find that his shirt was buttoned wrong, saying his wardrobe person is sick with the flu and this is what happens when he doesn’t have help from the wardrobe person. It’s delightful how he can laugh at himself like that. When it was time for the acoustic set, it was now the Pittsburgh Strings that joined the rest of the band on stage.
I was quite satisfied with my new peace of mind attitude about the soccer ball, not even expecting one from where I was on the floor. It is really difficult to ever get them unless Rod tosses them right to you. A girl in the row in front of me got one only because it bounced off about 3 different people before landing in her vicinity and even then, she was down on the floor clawing for it with another person! But if I didn’t get a ball here, I decided at least I was going to get a nice video and I did get a nice one of “Maggie May” - for y’all to enjoy! (Hey – In Vegas, Rod told us we could record, that he didn’t care, and I am holding him to that until I hear otherwise!) I was also able to get some nice pictures but for the most part just danced and sang and had a good ‘ole time like the days of old when cameras weren’t even allowed in.
Days after I got back from the Pittsburgh show I was looking over the small video clips I had taken that I figured were basically useless since I’d had to stop recording due to so many people blocking the view from the floor angle. Then I came upon one that made my eyes grow wide. In one of the small clips, which I hadn’t even noticed at the show, Rod is singing “Downtown Train” and slowly, his eyes focus in on my camera, he blows a kiss, puts his fingers up in the shape of a camera, mouths, “camera” and points to the camera before exiting the stage for the drum solo! A most treasured 29-second piece of video, for sure!
The visit to Orlando was a spontaneous one which I had been on the fence about ever since the show there was announced. My sister said I could come down and stay with her for the show, but I’d been feeling a bit out of control about all of this running around to see Rod and just wasn’t sure if I should go for it. But as the summer wore on, I knew I really did want to go! A few weeks before the show my sister sends me an email asking if I am still toying with the idea of coming down for the concert. I told her yes, I do want to come down. I found an airline ticket for a good price not long after that and so the decision was made. On the day of the show, I borrowed my sister’s car with directions in hand and headed for the Amway Center in downtown Orlando.
In Orlando, after welcoming the audience, Rod said that he had never been to this arena because it is new and he hadn’t been here in Orlando for six years. The newspaper reviewer for this show mentioned that Rod missed a note, but he actually missed three words in “Tonight’s The Night” and had a bit of a late delivery on the next line, which he explained afterward was from having swallowed wrong. Good recovery, though! Rod had his usual great interaction with the audience, going to the sides, waving to the people, high and low. He is also playful with the band at different moments, like when he put a handkerchief on top of Jimmy Roberts head after “Sweet Little Rock & Roller”. J’Anna is a joy and has really come into her own with her now solo verse of “Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face.”
Just before “Hot Legs” when Rod shows his usual funny little clips of the dog, himself in a nurses outfit and himself in drag, he is now explaining that he is wearing his wife’s nurses outfit, she is playing nurse since she is reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” and how he has had to go to the hardware store for some rope! Would we expect anything less from Rod?! Knickers under the bed, indeed! Of course, this little funny comment can only last so long, after all, how long can she be reading the series?? (As of Orlando, she was halfway through the second book.)
So now it is time for the soccer ball kick-off, and here I am, in nearly the same spot I was in at the show in Washington, D.C. After finishing up first with the soccer balls on the opposite side, Rod then comes prancing across the stage to our side. I have this scarf I take to the arenas because, you know - it can get awfully cold in there – even during the summer! So after Rod kicks the first ball up high in my section, shy me - who is at this show probably only about five feet away from him when he comes onto the side stage extension - lifted my scarf up overhead, all the while reciting my new mantra, “whatever he chooses to do!” … and he tosses me the ball! Thank you for choosing to do that, Rod! It was tricky because I had to quickly drop the scarf in order to catch the ball, leaning forward over the rail. But I got it! Rod was very generous with our section, tossing and kicking out many more balls high and low, including one to a little girl who had come down the aisle.
After the curtain rises for the encore, Rod thanks us for coming out, toasting the audience with a glass of wine saying he promises it won’t be another 6 or 7 years before he sees us again. During this final song, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, a man near the stage where all the stage hands and workers are walking around slipped a folded piece of paper into my hand. The first thing I thought of was that they were going to confiscate my camera! I was practically ready to take the chip out before handing it over! I unfolded the paper and it was the show set list. I showed it to the lady next to me and we wondered why he gave me this. After the show was over, the man came over to me and told me he gave me that for being a Celtic supporter. Here was the set list for Orlando:
Tonight’s The Night
Some Guys Have All The Luck
Having A Party
You Wear It Well
Rhythm Of My Heart
Have I Told You Lately
First Cut Is The Deepest
Reason To Believe
Rainy Night In Georgia
Sweet Little Rock & Roller
You’re In My Heart
Encore – Do Ya Think I’m Sexy
Some fun facts about the 3 shows I saw:
The show that had the most Celtic supporters – Orlando
The show in which Rod got the most things (flowers, etc.) from fans – Pittsburgh (Including someone who gave Rod a cowboy hat and he gave them his in exchange)
The show with the most “costumed” fans – it was a toss-up. Besides seeing tartan in both Washington, D.C. and Orlando, I saw two ladies in Washington, D.C. dressed in Rod’s “Foolish Behavior” outfit of black and white striped pants and black and white polka-dot shirt. In Pittsburgh, there was a Rod look-alike and a lady dressed as Stevie Nicks. They were seen in the lobby together posing for pictures. The lady who had come with the Rod look-alike was dressed in Rod’s “Passion” black with red polka dots.
The show that was easiest for me to get back home from – Orlando. My sister lives 20 minutes from the Amway Center. Of course, I am not counting the fact that I had to fly to get down there! I won’t even go into detail about how lost we got in downtown Pittsburgh! But now, in addition to thanking us for spending our money on coming out to the show – which I have always felt is very thoughtful of Rod to say, he is also thanking us for the travel to get there by buses, taxis, trains. At this Orlando show, he even added, “for coming from places far away”, (!!) which was quite a coincidence, because I had! So while some of the journeys have been a bit of a challenge, at least Rod is grateful to us for it! And it is certainly worth the effort to see the greatest show on earth!
Photographs by By Karen Chande