Shot! Rod Stewart live in Hove
While the veteran rocker delivered the hits, he also hit a few googlies in a show that didn’t quite bowl ’em over
The last time Rod Stewart played Brighton he was at the city’s biggest venue: the Amex Stadium. Apart from Rod, the stadium has only hosted one other concert and that was Fatboy Slim who happens to reside in Brighton.
Now, five years after his Amex show, Rod was back in Brighton, well Hove actually, to play the city’s second biggest outdoor venue, the County Cricket Ground. This was part of a huge stadium tour of the UK which has seen him.play at many of the country’s most famous football grounds.
It was curious then why he chose the 1st Central cricket ground rather than the much bigger Amex. That being said, he was hot on the heels of his old mucker, Elton John who’d played Hove a few weeks earlier with his own Goodbye Yellow Brick Road swan song show.
When it comes to ’legendary’ artists like Elton and Rod there is clearly a huge appetite for seeing them live. Just look at the biggest tours this year and the list of legends include the Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss and the Eagles to name but four. All put on big, greatest hits shows, delivering just what their audience want.
For many, it’s all about nostalgia — reliving their younger days. And, no doubt, there’s a feeling that this could or indeed will be the last opportunity they have of seeing a legend in the flesh.
Against that backdrop, the artist has to give the audience what they want — essentially a let’s go back in time show — whilst also playing to the most people in the shortest amount of time. The bigger the venue, the fewer dates required.
But the very nature of these shows creates a problem: it’s all too easy to be lazy and just do what’s expected. Often just turning up is enough.
As it was, some 16,000 rocked up to see Rod, plus of course those locals watching from the apartment buildings that overlook the ground. That meant an early start and an early finish to end before the 9 o’clock curfew — just one of the issues when you play this venue. Given the time constraints— and the amount of hits in Rod’s back catalogue — ninety minutes didn’t sound anywhere near enough time to squeeze them all in.
At 7:30, with Hove bathed in bright sunshine, the bagpipes of Flower of Scotland signalled Rod’s arrival. The staging was standard fare for this kind of show — no real design, just four large video screens. On the single level stage, the band all wore white jackets and the five blonde backing singers (Rod apologised for being one short due to illness) wore white dresses.
Blondes aside, the first thing you notice is just how strong his voice still is — instantly recognisable as it has always been. The sound wasn’t quite so good, often feeling muddy.
Visually, things were average at best, with nothing terribly creative happening on the screens and the daylight making much of the lighting rig redundant, leading to Rod quipping that he might as well have left the lights in the truck.
In fact his stage banter between songs was one of the most memorable aspects of a gig that much of the time felt like it was on autopilot. Having given regular shout outs to fictional Mrs this and that in so and so villas, Rod even thanked them for not paying to watch the show.
Musically, things were a little off, too, especially when it came to some of the song choices. rod’s back catalogue has always been filled with endless covers, he’s rightly known as a great interpreter of other people’s compositions, but two in particular were a little baffling. First, there was Mark Knopfler’s instrumental Going Home and then Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way which was sung by one of the backing singers. It was as if the jukebox had malfunctioned and played two of the wrong songs.
In both cases, it was an opportunity for Rod to take a breather and change outfits, something he did more than a few times. Similarly, he Took a leg break by singing a couple of songs sitting on a chair.
He reminisced about the time he spent in Brighton when he was a teenager — although he didn’t sing Brighton Beach, the song he wrote in 2013 about his experiences. He also mentioned it was exactly 50 years ago to the month when he recorded his first album.
If someone told him then that he’d still be playing in his mid-seventies I’m sure he’d have laughed his head off. To be honest, why he still does so is bemusing. He surely can’t need the money, so you have to wonder why he puts himself through it.
That thought must be in the minds of those who pay handsomely to see him, the notion that this could indeed be the last time.
Not surprisingly he saved the big guns till last. After Sailing and Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? we had Maggie May during which the lyrics appeared on screen. Maybe he was showing his age, but one of the most memorable moments of the gig was Rod admitting he had sung the wrong words to arguably the song he’s sung more than any other.
By now the clock had struck nine, meaning it was curfew time. And even though we were hundreds of miles from Glasgow, the blondes had changed into hooped Celtic shirts and leopard skin skirts and old team photos of Celtic bizarrely adorned the screen.
Rod decided to add a few minutes of extra time to the show by finishing with the rambunctious Faces’ rocker Stay With Me. By some margin, it was arguably the best song of the show and the one played with the most gusto.
With that, it was over. No encores, just a few fireworks. And an early night for all concerned. For many, it was a legend seen, something to tell their friends they did and, no doubt, some old memories rekindled.
Setlist: Having a Party (Sam Cooke cover) | Young Turks | Some Guys Have All the Luck (The Persuaders cover) | Tonight’s the Night | Forever Young | Twistin’ the Night Away (Sam Cooke cover) | Rhythm of My Heart (Marc Jordan cover) |The Killing of Georgie | It Takes Two (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston cover) | Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me) | I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover) | Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (Hambone Willie Newbern cover) | Going Home (Mark Knopfler cover) | Stripped | Grace | I Don’t Want To Talk About It (Crazy Horse cover) | Dirty Old Town (Ewan MacColl cover) | Have I Told You Lately? (Van Morrison cover) | Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac cover) | Baby Jane | Sailing (Sutherland Brothers cover) | Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? | Maggie May | Stay With Me
Behind the image: Both these shots were taken from the crowd with the iPhone 8 Plus. No photographers were allowed in the pit during Rod’s performance.