REVIEW BY CLARE ROBINSON
AFTER countless days of unbroken, dry weather, it was Sod's Law that the heavens should decide to open the day the city hosted its biggest open-air party of the summer in the form of Rod Stewart's live show at Plymouth Argyle.
"We shall overcome this light bit of dampness," said Rod, four songs into his set after a classic Chuck Berry slice of rock'n'roll and before his first big hit of the night, You Wear It Well.
"I can see you're up for this and I'm 64, so you lot had better pace yourselves," he added.
Officially rock'n'roll chic, wearing a sky-blue silk jacket and tie, with his matching colour-co-ordinated girl singers by his side, Rod wowed the crowd with classic hits including Handbags and Gladrags and The First Cut Is The Deepest.
One of the biggest household-name superstars ever to hail from these shores, Rod has shifted some 250 million albums and singles in a career spanning over 40 years, so we are indeed honoured that Rod's management chose the hallowed turf of Home Park on which to stage his one and only UK show this year, as part of a world tour that will include multiple dates in the US and Canada.
Of course he's very much at home performing on footie pitches, having started his career as an apprentice with Brentford Football Club back in the early Sixties. The Beautiful Game's loss was rock and pop's gain and he was to become not only one of rock's greatest and most distinctive voices but one of our finest songwriters, penning many of his own hits.
Now knocking on a bit, he still looks in remarkable fine fettle (is that really all his own hair?) and, as he showed, is still capable of putting on a stonking live show.
Introduced in his pre-match preamble as the ‘Rodfather, back to save the world', Mr Stewart proceeded to remind us on Thursday not only what a great performer he is but also what a helluva back catalogue he has accumulated.
It was a combination that made for one of the most enjoyable concerts I have witnessed in a very long time.
Okay, it’s partly an age thing, I admit. I was a school girl when Rod first started churning out hits and stuff you listened to in your formative years tends to stick with you all your life.
But watching the main man, strutting with that trademark cocksure swagger around the stage looking so incredibly well-preserved, his scruffily coiffed blonde locks as plentiful as ever, it was very hard to believe that he is 64 – and that so much time has elapsed.
On the massive stage, spanning most of one side of the stadium and flanked by huge screens, Rod kicked off with Some Guys Have All The Luck, a well chosen opener – after all he has done rather well for himself – which introduced us to his superb rock’n’roll band and trio of colour-coordinated backing singers.
He had promised a mixed bag of classic hits and surprises and this he gave us.
As well as the belting ballads Reason to Believe, Handbags and Gladrags and The First Cut is The Deepest and a particularly gorgeous rendition of I Don’t Wanna Talk About It, all delivered from the heart with that trademark rich melodic huskiness, we had an Irish hoedown in the form of Dirty Ol’ Town, accompanied by fiddle, banjo, piano accordion and himself on acoustic guitar.
And from his forthcoming album, by complete contrast, came Love Train, that terrific soul number by the O’Jay’s which never fails to get the dancing started.
The theme of football recurred constantly, old footage appearing on the back screen from time to time – some Argyle goal-scoring brought cheers – then a rousing rendition of Hot Legs was the excuse for Rod to use his once practically pro-level kicking skills to send footballs way out into the crowd.
Sailing saw the entire almost sell-out crowd on pretty impressive backing vocals – a very moving experience to be part of.
But it was Maggie May that made hairs on the back of the neck stand up as 20,000 fans bellowed along absolutely word perfect, before Rod returned for a storming encore to conclude with Do You Think I’m Sexy? (The answer by the way is a resounding ‘yes’!)
Rod may not be able to save the world – but he surely proved, at Home Park, that to those of us who grew up with his songs, he is still a rock god!
Reproduced with kind permission of The voice of Plymouth 'The Herald'