Rod Stewart, Nottingham Arena 28.5.19

Sir Rod likes Nottingham Arena. He visited twice in 2016. Tonight’s a one-off indoor show warming up for a massive stadium tour. This might not be the 250 capacity Boat Club he started out at, but the arena’s the most intimate space you’re likely to see him in this century.

You know what to expect with Rod, who always plays his biggest songs, but there are often surprises. This is ‘his biggest ever UK tour’ (19 shows as compared to 16 when I first saw him with The Faces, in 1973, albeit spread over two sections) How many acts do that at the age of 74?

The opener, minor hit Infatuation, is an odd choice, but gets the groove going. Young Turks takes things up a notch. He hits his first killer punch with his second number one, You Wear It Well. He’s in his stride, in front of a superb stage set whose multiple backdrops include a gigantic video carousel above the stage.

Rod, red scarf poking out of tight bullfighter’s trousers, tells us to forget Brexit, Trump and the EU because ‘we’re here to enjoy ourselves’. Then it’s Tonight’s the Night, which goes down a treat. The lyric might sound odd coming from a 74 year old, but Stewart is never lascivious, joking at one point that his latest wife was born the year he wrote the next song ( a rousing Maggie May). Hit follows hit, including a moving Killing of Georgie. Tonight’s highlights also include a cracking I’d Rather Go Blind, the only song from his Faces days, a very rocky Tonight I’m Yours and a wonderful, poignant I Don’t Want To Talk About It.

He tore a ligament at his Cork show the other night, he explains, ‘doing a dance a man of my age shouldn’t do’, then sits down for the acoustic set. There’ll be no footballs kicked into the audience tonight, but we do get the big balloons. He feels his thigh, then throws himself into show closer Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.

Stewart is always generous to his musicians, who each get solo spots (theme to Local Hero anyone? The backing singers did a good job on Womack and Womack’s Teardrops), full introductions and plenty of opportunity to dance, sing or anything (now there’s a song I’d like to hear him do again). This was the fourth time I’ve seen him at the Arena, and he’s never sung better. The two hour show concludes with a single, snappy encore of Baby Jane.

            ‘It was good, wasn’t it?’ he says, before the curtains close a second time.

            Yes, Rod, it was.

This is an extended version of my review in the Nottingham Post. Here’s The Faces song I mentioned earlier, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything.

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