I can’t deny it, my reviews should be accompany with a health warning, for those of you that master the art of skimming a story you should be okay,for those that just like a good old read make yourself a nice cuppa tea and get out the chocolate digestives and you will be fine, but those of short attention span and are easily bored, race onto the last chapter to save you from suffering the same fate as my two accompanying ladies on our journey home (%). Therefore forgive me as the following does not adhere to the timeline of the day’s events of last Friday.
So for once thinking I’m totally prepared with a headline of “Saint” (for Southampton) Rodney to bowl us over (being the event was at a cricket ground) appeared to fit the bill. I was to find out that the 22:30 announcement** – probably originally delivered to Rod in a slightly better way than the station porter on the final track of Another Country’s Last Train Home, meant “excuse me Mr. Baker but I think you need to alter your headline” would see a tweak in the above. I had also triggered my customary poetic out of office verse (see at foot of review) to tell anyone trying to contact me that today of all days there was no chance of reaching me. The past week had been hectic to say the least, a week ago to the day I celebrated my 60th birthday, three days later it was our 41st wedding anniversary and after last year’s expense, my wife’s card contained an IOU! Therefore I came up with the idea of “Let’s make a full day of Friday rather than hang about killing time here, why not go first to Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth for a little retail therapy before moving onto Southampton?” an idea that certainly was greeted with acceptance from my nearest and dearest and my sister-in-law.
A leisurely 10:30 start and a smooth journey down saw us parked up by midday in Portsmouth. A bite to eat looking over the harbour and out to sea, followed by a bit of shopping in the discount stores, including a purchase to cover the IOU was filling up the day to perfection. Just after 3 we sat down to have a cup of tea and Alison started to thumb through Facebook, “Oh look, “trending” Rod Stewart, appearing at the Ageas Bowl,followed by the statement there will be a strictly limited park and ride facility at Southampton University” – panic starts to set in, for those that know me, you probably would say that was because I did not mention the fact it was £20 for the pleasure to park and then travel on the Southampton bus service rather than available parking spaces! We needed to make a decision, what was 5 o’clock traffic like around these parts? Promptly I said, “Let’s go towards the Hedge End superstores so we are closer and see whether there are any other options”. This idea also allowed us to buy a far healthier choice of food for later on that you are ever likely to buy at a concert venue – plus at far cheaper prices. Time was moving on and whilst asking a couple of gents whether they had any better options for us to park up other than at the strictly limited recommendation, nobody could help with a bit of “local” knowledge, which was a little frustrating given the brown sign posts to the Ageas Bowl were all around us when we exited the motorway and made our way to the superstores suggesting we were close to the venue, so to steal a line of Rod’s, I guess I had to “bite my lip and turn around” and head back to the University P&R option. Most of the time my navigational senses are best described as “poor” but back on the motorway, junction 5 was soon upon us and it just so happened that a double decker bus was turning off just ahead of me, my sixth sense kicked in and I said “I’m following that bus because I’m certain it’s part of the P&R crew” and true to form it lead me to exactly where I needed to be rather than having to adopt the normal round the roundabout three times before selecting the correct exits! As I handed over my £20, I knew what to expect here though being a regular to major golf events, park your car in a massive field with hundreds of others then climb on a bus, wondering if my contribution would aid a reduction in next year’s student’s fees for the University! We were handed a leaflet that said at the end of the concert buses from pick-up point “B” will return to the University, the journey will take between 10 and 20 minutes, then in bold at the bottom; The transfer time will take longer than the journey to the venue – plus Prohibited items:- Food, Alcohol, Non-alcoholic drink, Umbrella, Glass and Flash Photography … given we had pre-purchased our food it could be we adopt plan “B” if all that was adhered to. The journey probably took a good 30 minutes, a few country roads and a small bottle neck, but the bus arrived in perfect timing 17:27 just three minutes before the gates were due to open as we saw queues waiting to get in. Leisurely we made our way from the bus to the stadium and were directed to another gate that had next to no queue. Alison then adopted the master plan, “Give the food bag to Jac, she is far more likely to get through rather than you” (I’ve admired my wife’s confidence in me ever since the day we first met!) – I’ve also always known my wife is a genius, as true to her word the guy was so intent on searching my sister in law’s handbag he never gave what was in her other hand a second glance, mission accomplished. After a comfort break we headed to our pitch seats block A4 row DD – estimate then 30 rows back in line with a stage screen and the speakers (#which I will come back to later), settling down to start on our smuggled picnic and place on **Facebook we have arrived to see the one and only Rod Stewart CBE ….
So at this point in the storyline we roll forward from 17:45 to 22:45, the concert is over as we regimentally make our way out of the ground, strangely two ladies with a local dialect seem more intent on guessing the actual number of people in attendance for the performance rather than exactly what they have just witnessed “The security guy said there would be 25,000, but I can’t see that given all the seating to the cricket ground wasn’t used?” reply “I know for the cricket the capacity is 16,000, but of course they have used a large part of the cricket pitch for seating so that maybe correct” – Funny when you eaves drop on a conversation what is on people’s minds!! As we funneled out to pick up point B the joys of dust and engine fumes filling the air, reality was starting to click in, there are a lot of buses here and they are full up and not appearing to go very far. As you climb on board, select your seat, the leaflet quotation dawns “The transfer time will take longer than the journey to the venue” – what they failed to add was “5 times longer”. It looked like you had a bunch of novices with a “high viz” jacket on that had never directed traffic before in their life, at the small exit roundabout, probably the VIP parking spaces to the right (of no doubt two people to each vehicle) was given normal driving priority over the 30 or more buses in a queue with about 60 people on board each one, to add to that a side influx for the taxi’s and mini buses also appeared to get priority. Then you get the awkward point where a few of the earlier buses are returning from having dropped off any early leavers (why!) or just lucky to get to the exit quick enough. My hope was that once the bus made it out onto the roads it would circle and join up onto the motorway in a similar manner as the bus I had followed earlier in the day, but no it returned the way it came which was through another local bottle neck that would add more time to the return journey. Having finally arrived back to the University, the good thing about our car is it’s colour, many people don’t like it, but placed in a dark field with the popular black and dark blue vehicles all around in a field with no markings at all, you could see others wandering about thinking ”I’m sure I parked it around here somewhere!”. However with the clock now reading 12:30, the trickle movement to exit the field and weave out through the natural car park would take another 30 minutes minimum. Finally on the open road, I told myself, I guess when you think about it, I spent 2 hours watching Rod for close on £100, maybe £20 for 2 hours sitting on a Hampshire bus was not such bad value after all!! Soon Alison would be saying, “How are you feeling? You’re not too tired are you? I will keep talking to you to make sure you’re not drifting off” I somehow make my way back onto the M27 without any issues,thinking it’s only one junction to the M3 and we will be on our way, prior knowledge of doing this stretch of road before telling me maybe we could be getting home shortly after 2 o’clock. But to my utmost frustration as I approach, the overhead sign says “Junction 4 exit to M3 closed for overnight repairs”, what to do now? I was back in the hands of “Maggie” our pet name for our sat nav lady to provide inspiration for our diverted homeward journey. To every dilemma there often is a silver lining, with Maggie telling us to exit at Junction 3, we are blessed that a service station is just before it, Alison (the genius) says “Let’s pull in, have our comfort break now and regroup”, which we do but another of her inspirations is, the smell of the McDonalds (which we normally avoid at all costs) make her suggest “I fancy some chips”, three large “hot” portions ordered and somehow the salt intake gives me a wake up call and new lease of life. Back in the car, Maggie gives us directions that send us back up the M27 the way we have just come, I said if the worst came to worst now and the exit is closed this side, we may have to go all the way back to Portsmouth and return via the A3. Thankfully that was not to be the case,we made good headway, but it was obvious before I had even reached the Winchester turn off, that the ladies supposedly keen to talk to me to keep me awake had themselves drifted off to sleep (%). The remaining journey went without a hitch, but I must agree with Alison, we would not go to another out of London concert again even though this is not that far,without staying over for the night as opening the front door at 3:15 in the morning was the thing you did in your twenties, not in your sixties.
Chapter 3 – The main event: Turn the clock back again to 17:45. Being the non-drinkers that we are, plus I treasure my lifetime clean driving license, we sat in our seats happy where we were, snacking slowly on our smuggled food and people watched as the auditorium ever so slowly started to fill. I said to Alison “Do you mind if I go for a wander?” off around the “pitch” I wandered, looking for a short while at the blocked off cricket square (for those of no cricket knowledge, it’s a central area where they place the wickets (stumps) and the game is mainly played upon).I decided to then ask one of the stewards if there was any merchandise stalls, and she directed me to a small tent probably less than 10 feet wide in the corner. With such a small area there was an obvious queue,(something to get me accustomed to for later!!) it gave me time I guess to plan what I would purchase (as if I hadn’t spent enough already on the day!!), I gave buying a program a miss, there still felt like possible rain in the air and I hate it if they get dog eared, after all it will be the same program in November at the O2 – far easier buying it from there.Having read a comment about a poor lady that had lost her merchandise at Norwich mainly because she didn’t have a bag with her, I decided the material one for £15 was worth it, as I don’t expect next time I go around the local shops with my new “man bag” anybody will have one to match! A t-shirt to add to the collection, plus two key rings and “well you have to don’t you?” buy The Sisterhood CD. As it was nearly my turn to be served with my back to the stage unnoticed the 4 amigo’s came on stage. With, what I was to find incorrectly anticipated that Rod would start around 8 o’clock, this seemed appropriate timing. True to their word, in their pigeon English they “murdered” every popular cover they performed, Delilah perhaps the most but as always it gets (what was still quite small) an audience singing. After about half a dozen “car crashes” they left the stage announcing they were taking a break but would be back soon! I said to Alison, “They must be having a laugh, surely they won’t come back again” – Alas they did, but totally destroying about another 5 songs that totally lost any humor you might have had for them first time around. I started to worry, were The Sisterhood not going to perform? Or was Rod not coming on stage until much later, meaning home time would be later than anticipated!
To my pleasure though the girls appeared, Ruby and her guitar playing partner Alyssa Bonagura, I had never heard them before, but must say I was totally impressed and feeling pleased I had purchased their CD – though totally over-priced £10 for just 5 songs.Ruby said she argued with her dad over song listings, because they had recorded one of his songs and if they sung it, it meant Rod would have to omit it from his set list,cue Gasoline Alley. Their final track, which I didn’t quite catch the title but looking at the CD I would guess at being “The Fire”, Alyssa would say we have to thank Rod for the inspiration on this number as he told us to believe in what we are doing, have faith in your talent and I’m sure you will break through. As I say, I loved it all, but I did feel the feedback the girls got was very limited, they tried to encourage people to clap along but struggled to get a response, I felt for Ruby’s frustration – often typical support group syndrome, especially if you are a little unknown – but I agree with Rod to steal a line of his again “Keep on doing what you’re doing” and I hope they become a success in a very difficult cut-throat business. # One thing Alison and I encountered during their time on stage was being situated where we were, the beat from the speakers actually was pounding on your chest, so much so that you could say you felt like Rod’s second number of the night (and a change from his Norwich play list – see below). My estimated timeline had been blown apart, but at about 20:30 the fanfare begun, the band entering the stage, fire crackers set off and straight into Having A Party, and boy did our man intend to do so. Song one complete he would tell us “We were to be entertained with a two hour show with a short 15 minute break to allow you to have a light beverage or two,I hope we can go on until the curfew”. He also said “I have some very important news to give to you towards the end of the show around 10:25, to some this maybe bad news!, but you will have to wait and see”. There was also the praise and recognition of his daughters early performance, asking us “Weren’t they brilliant, it’s not often that a dad can to work with his daughter”. Now many of you would have read Dave Edwards great review from Norwich, so I’m not going to give a story line to each song, but you will find the chronological listing below. Instead I give you the variations of Saturday, key parts to what I remember Rod saying and the special highlights of what will always be a memorable performance on (as it turned out to be) this special day. I had jotted Dave’s play list down to be
prepared, but was quickly thrown by the removal of Some Guys, with #It’s A Heartache, funnily enough not the greatest substitute but you just cannot help singing along to it. He would state early on he was in a buoyant mood tonight (all would fit into place very soon), after Love Is, he would point to a few people moving around towards the front and say, ”Do you know there are people just coming in, I suppose you would like us to sing the first 3 numbers again?”. Soon Rod would be lying on the stage floor gesturing to the cameraman to zoom into somebody in the crowd. “That’s my brother, that is, what are you doing over there?” an almost embarrassed looking Bob smiled and moved rapidly from the cameraman’s view. As each song rolled off, he would often preempt them with lines such as “this is a great number”, or “you’re going to love this one”. To me he seemed like an eleven year old (not a 71 year old) would be bouncing about waiting for the bell to ring to be able to run home and tell his dad he was now captain of the school football team (probably given Rod’s history far more important back then than having to tell his parents he had passed his 11 plus – it certainly was for me). The customary ruffle of the hair, and quote, ”I can’t do a thing with it tonight, overdone the hair products, at least it’s stayed dry for us, no rain”. Half way down the ground to Rod’s left (our right) stood the Hilton’s Hotel, Rod would ask something to the tune of “How are you all doing up there? Having a good time? I’m staying there for the night, room XYZ (don’t remember) on floor 123, if you fancy popping up?” (or was it just a request to “Please keep the noise down?”) – you wondered on his humor whether he actually was to take up residence for the night or simply felt like he was thinking back to the days of The Faces where the stories of mass fan parties in hotel rooms after shows. After a costume break he would remind us yet again that he had some important news to pass on towards the end of the show, “No, we are not having more babies,I’ll leave that to Ronnie”, as he swayed arms entwined gesturing rocking a new born to sleep. He would say three different lines (which were amusing but forgotten) such as “No the pistol is finally firmly back in it’s holster”. The audience around us was a mixed lot, funnily enough on the bus to the stadium, as guys with very thinning hair and ladies with walking sticks struggled to climb on board, I leaned across to Alison and said “Are we the youngest ones on this bus?”, Or is it that many people we know say we don’t look our age (i.e. We Wear It Well and appear Forever Young!) that you get a false impression when looking in a mirror? Back in our seating positions the rather tall (thankfully seated behind us) thickly set,balding chap in his fetching pink jumper got very excited over Stay With Me and from what I noticed word perfect – the lady sat next to Jacquie apologized well before even the 4 amigo’s came on and said “I’m not drunk!” (Forgive me but why, and she must have been in her 50’s or 60’s, do you get tanked up if you have paid close on £100 for ticket before anything you had paid to see has begun?). The lady in front was quite talkative, worried about her seat rocking and telling us her husband blamed her for everything! There were empty seats to the left of me in my row and the one in front, these were not filled until after our Mexican’s had “bean and gone” next to me appeared to be parents plus their son or maybe daughter and their partner, after their initial seating arrangement, the young lady changed over to be placed next to me (Some Guys Have All The Luck!) – So may I recommend my choice of antiperspirant as I’m “sure” it won’t let you down. In front of them and myself were a group of 8, probably in their 30’s, hell bent on a good time, somehow with glass bottles of wine sharing their drinks, then on their phone taking pictures and video’s – often of themselves not what was happening on stage. They were not directly in front of me and didn’t bother me, but I think they clearly upset the family next to me (which was probably the main reason the young girl stood next to me if I remove my vanity hat). At the end of the show as we started to leave the young man swapped places with his young lady and the crew in front were singing Tonight’s the Night into their phone, the guy quickly noticed and pointed out to them, “I think you have forgotten to press the record button” in their attempt to video their singing, I commented, “Just as well because Simon Cowell would not have passed your audition”, I then said to guy in front of me, “I think they are going to have a headache in the morning”, to which he replied “Let’s hope so!” Then he said “What a fantastic performance that was” which I always find pleasing to hear, my reply of “His shows are always quality, that’s why I’ve seen him well over 40 times”, his shocked expression left him a little speechless.So I wished him a safe journey home and we went our separate ways as all due care and attention came back to making sure Alison and Jacquie kept close as we headed for the exit. There are those that at Smiler knock Rod’s set list,but come on, the guy has such a vast catalogue to choose from and (apart from Hyde Park) has to please those that buy a ticket for their once in a lifetime concert. For me when you consider he sang 23 numbers that spanned 16 different albums the variety is well balanced. He’s reintroduced classics from Never A Dull Moment although having said they had to drop True Blue because of time constraints from Hyde Park, that is the major itch I would love to be soothed by adding it at some point given it must have been rehearsed. His band were and always appear to be spot on (or are you trying to tell me my hearing can’t be so good now I’ve turned 60!) the girls (singers), well, not my cup of tea but he loves them and they help him get through the odd number. The talents of main stays such as J’anna and Jimmy ooze through and all appear to be part of Rod’s one big happy family. The biggest highlight for us had to be I Would Rather Go Blind, he sings this in a spine tingling manner that as Alison and I swayed arm around one another, had a spotlight shone upon us, there would not be a truer line than “Revealed the tears I had on my face” for us both, it was truly that moving and brilliant (I know, I’m going totally soft in my old age!). And so to the final acclaim the moment Rod had been so excited to reveal, by now most of you would have seen the video via Facebook of Rod addressing us all of his news he had been made a knight of the realm,therefore I won’t repeat his wording, the Elton comment by text was funny,but to steal another recent song line of his the beam all over his face told you “Oh I’m one happy man, and I believe that the good lord had a plan” and he almost humbly said it was all down to us. **As the buzz circled around, the irony was that my Facebook post as soon as we reached our seats had been picked up by John Gray and @ 9:20 he replied, “you mean Sir Rod?” Hence for at least three in the crowd, the big 10:30 secret was not as unexpected as it may have seemed.
Well without further ado, I will bring an end to my version of that brilliant Beatles classic “A Day In The Life”, Often a conversation topic can be where were you when JFK was shot, or when England won the world cup,or the planes flew into the twin towers, or the Berlin wall coming down etc. etc. - Well I’ve just updated my CV to say, I was with the man, when Sir Rod Stewart announced on stage to the public he had become a Knight of the Realm – god bless his cotton socks.
Out of Office poetry:-
Finally it's arrived that special date Friday 10th June, So, so excited, so much so, I guess you could say over the moon,A journey down to Southampton and a seat near the front @ Ageas Bowl,To see the man who's voice and music touches my heart and soul,This passion started probably before you were born, back in nineteen seventy one, With the release of Maggie May / Reason To Believe the infatuation begun,Then news of his group The Faces appearing in Sutton in December of seventy three,My brother-in-law queued up for tickets for himself, his sister (now wife) and me, An amazing performance made me hungry and like a drug I needed more,So no real surprise where we were in Lewisham on 18th November nineteen seventy four, But a year later Woody would leave to become a Rolling Stone, And Rod said, sorry Mac and Kenny, it's time I did this on my own, A tax exile not to be seen again till December of seventy six,A brand new band, still so electric we went twice to get our fix, Almost every time he has toured since, it's a must we just have to go,Because the time line of a musician is something you never can know,In May 2000 thyroid cancer could have seen the end of his career,But after surgery and the choice to sing American Songbook would end that fear,November 2012 my first meeting as he signed for me and my wife his autobiography,And my wife got a cheeky kiss whilst my back was turned that I never got to see,A new album "Time" and concerts in London and Liverpool in twenty thirteen, My man was back doing what he does best and full filling my dream,Late last year the follow up brilliant album Another Country,Plus I met him twice again, On Loose Women and also Dutch TV,Hyde Park last September was yet another magical set list blast,And I have two more concerts for November,may it forever last,
Contact me on Monday when I may still be on my legal high,Rod and your music, I shall love it even as an Angel in the sky,
Having A Party,
It’s A Heartache,
Tonight’s The Night,
Can’t Stop Me Now,
You Wear It Well, Forever Young,
Stay With Me,
Rhythm Of My Heart,
Maggie May, (please be seated set)
You’re In My Heart,
First Cut Is The Deepest,
I Don’t Want To Talk About It,
Ooh La La. (Normal standing positions resumed after “The girls” session)
Rolling and Tumbling,
I’d Rather Go Blind,
(encore) Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.
Thanks and regards,
Review By Colin Baker
Photos By Bev Wand
Montage By Tommy Kevitt
Also spotted in the crowd on Friday was 'Saints' legend Matt Le Tissier who posted a selfie on his Twitter page