Forever young

Classic soul to the fore, Rod Stewart returns after 27 years to play at Ramat Gan Stadium.

rod stewart 311 (photo credit: PR)
rod stewart 311
(photo credit: PR)
It may be difficult to imagine, but there was once a time when the finest rock ‘n’ roll singer on the planet was Rod Stewart. In a frenetic span of three years or so, when he was splitting his time between releasing raucous yet wistful solo albums like Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells a Story, and fronting the carousing bar band The Faces for albums like A Nod is as Good as Wink, Stewart outdid even Mick Jagger for epitomizing the prototype of a cocky, rooster-headed lead singer – tottering, but never falling, between gravelly-voiced machismo and tender sentimentality. There’s probably never been a Chuck Berry rewrite as potent as “Stay With Me” or blue print for future singer/songwriters as poignant as “Maggie May.”
But, that wasn’t enough for Stewart, who, by the mid-70s, had married starlet Britt Ekland and adopted the Hollywood lifestyle. Thanks to a growing allegiance to campy pandering like “Hot Legs” and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” he became a superstar, leaving most of the elements that made him so special by the wayside.
That was the case for the ensuing decades, with Stewart occasionallyshowing flashes of his former brilliance amid the pedestrian fare hewas releasing. Then in 2002, having sold 100 million records butfloundering in late-career stasis, he discovered a new formula,transforming himself on It Had to Be You: The Great AmericanSongbook into a Tony Bennett-styled nightclub crooner withlavish covers of Berlin, Porter and Gerswhin. Thanks to middle of theroad direction of legendary record executive Clive Davis, Stewart wasback on the charts with a vengeance, and the next three installationsof the songbook did just as well. Having given up writing his ownsongs, Stewart next turned to rock covers for 2006’s Still theSame, and last year released Soulbook, acollection of classic soul covers like “Rainy Night in Georgia” and“Just My Imagination.”
That’s the album Stewart will be focusing on when he brings his bigband to Ramat Gan Stadium on Wednesday night for a half-sized, 24,000capacity show. It’s Stewart’s first visit to Israel since 1983, andfollows hot on the heels of his contemporary and friend Elton John.
While he may not enjoy the rich vat of top level hits his fellow soccerfanatic does, Stewart’s catalogue is nothing to scoff about. And hemade a point of promising interviewers that he wouldn’t be ignoring thenuggets from the past. A consummate showman, the 65-year-old Stewartwill likely deliver the goods with style and class on Wednesday night.At this point, it would be too much to ask for anything more.