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Concert Reviews:
Rod Stewart brings the glitz and the hits to The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, www.facebook.com/garygraffonmusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- After postponing the concert originally planned for April at The Palace, Rod Stewart clearly felt like he owed something to his "friends in Detroit and surrounding areas."

So he promised a little extra when he finally hit town on Saturday night, Oct. 27. "It'll be worth it, I promise," he told the Palace crowd. "It's Saturday night, it's Detroit, Rod Stewart is the band -- let's go!" He then lit into Sam Cooke's "Having a Party," a wholly appropriate selection that set the tone for Stewart's glitzy, energetic and hit-filled two-hour exposition.

Then again, Saturday's show would have been satisfying even if it had stopped with the opening act.

Steve Winwood -- as unassuming as Stewart was charismatic -- added to the boomer/classic rock heaven aspect of the night with a fierce hour-long roll through his legacy, switching between organ and guitar as he lead his quintet through hot takes of songs from Traffic ("Rainmaker," "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys"), the Spencer Davis Group ("I'm a Man") and solo favorites such as the taut "Dirty City." Only "Higher Love" suffered from not having enough personnel on stage to adequately pull it off, but renditions of Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which featured a lengthy guitar solo by Winwood, and "Gimme Some Lovin' " more than compensated.

It was as perfect a set-up as you could imagine for Stewart's set -- it also gave the dudes in the crowd a heavier dose of rock than Stewart would be providing for his largely female faithful -- and he even acknowledged their shared history by showing a brief black-and-white video clip of he and Winwood performing together, along with the Animals' Eric Burdon, circa 1965.

Contrasting Winwood's Spartan approach, however, Stewart put a premium on showmanship, with a clean white tri-level stage and an extensive video production that showed more vintage footage and photographs along with animations and high-tech backdrops. His 13-piece band, meanwhile, carried enough multi-instrumental firepower (up to an including a full-size harp) to recreate the night's 23 songs, from the straightforward rock of "Hot Legs" (during which Stewart, who sported three different outfits during the show, kicked and threw soccer balls into the crowd), Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock & Roller" and the Faces' "Stay With Me" to a lush four-song acoustic set bolstered by seven locally based string players.

At 68, the amiably self-deprecating Stewart is still a strong force even if his trademark rasp has lost portions of its high end, and the show provided a few breath-catching breaks to let his daughter Ruby sing one of her own songs ("Just One More Day") and the three backup singers cover the Ike & Tina Turner version of "Proud Mary." But the Palace crowd still ate up ever swivel of his hips and lift of his legs and laughed along with Stewart when he had to start "Young Turks" and Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" over.

Stewart also made good on his early show promise with references to his long history performing in Detroit -- "some fine memories of...naughty, naughty times" -- and what he said were specially inserted covers of Bonnie Tyler's "It's a Heartache" and Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" amidst the likes of "Tonight's the Night," "You Wear It Well," "Some Guys Have All the Luck," "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)," "Forever Young" (a duet with Ruby and Maggie May."

And by the time the balloons dropped from the ceiling during the encore of "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," outfitted with contemporary EDM touches, Stewart had everyone up and dancing and hardly feeling their ages -- and likely forgetting that the show was supposed to have happened six months prior.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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