Gig Review: Rod Stewart at Newcastle Arena, 9th July 2019

It’s been a while since I went to a gig by myself. Geth wasn’t interested in going to see Rod Stewart, so I just bought the one ticket. I still had a great time, though – concerts for me are about enjoying the music rather than socialising!

The venue had advised showing up promptly for doors at six o’clock, and I can understand why – when Geth and I went to the Culture Club gig we arrived a bit later and it took ages to get through the queues. This has been an understandable feature of big arena gigs in the UK since the Manchester Arena attack a couple of years ago, as everyone has to be scanned and bag-searched and metal-detected before they go into the venue. However, because I showed up bang on six o’clock, the queue was still small and so I was in my seat by ten past six, even with my brief stop at the merch stall to buy a set of badges! It was another hour and twenty minutes before the support act were due to come on, so I settled in with my 3DS to pass the time.

Johnny Mac & The Faithful

The support act for this tour were Johnny Mac & The Faithful, who had co-written a song on Rod’s latest album, Blood Red Roses. I hadn’t heard of them prior to the gig, but they were the epitome of what I would describe as a ‘BBC Scotland’ band – a Celtic rock act from Glasgow, whom I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the BBC’s Hogmanay coverage at some point. They started off with a couple of original songs before launching into a series of traditional Celtic standards such as Galway Girl and The Irish Rover – I hadn’t expected this type of music at a classic pop/rock gig, but it was very high-energy and enjoyable. They then moved onto a couple of Rod Stewart covers in order to get the audience pumped, before moving onto Howling At The Moon (which my Duranie brain misheard as Howling Like The Wolf) and finishing with a track called Johnny Rod, in which the aim was apparently to crowbar as many Rod Stewart titles into the lyrics as possible.

I’ve been to a lot of gigs but I have never seen such a good effort made by a support band at ‘being a support band’ – it was all about getting the audience excited for the main event! They were obviously very grateful for the support slot, and they put me in the mood to start listening to some more folky stuff again.

Johnny Mac & The Faithful setlist:

Little Wild Heart
Took A Train
Galway Girl
Pay Me My Money Down
The Irish Rover
Ooh La La
Handbags And Gladrags
Howling At The Moon
Johnny Rod

After they’d finished, we didn’t have long to wait for the main event. A series of impressive visuals on the big screen heralded the entrance of Rod and his band, who immediately launched into the music – it was a couple of tracks before Rod greeted the audience and introduced the band. Although the current tour is in support of the Blood Red Roses album, the show was really a greatest hits set, which is to be expected from artists who have been going for decades. I certainly wasn’t complaining!

Rod Stewart

The early part of the set included solo hits like Young Turks and Faces classics such as Stay With Me, as well as a rendition of Rod’s ’90s duet with Tina Turner, It Takes Two. Tina’s half of the duet was ably covered by the lead backing singer, one of six women in Rod’s current touring band, the ‘White Swans’. When the six of them had arrived on stage at the beginning, dancing in matching outfits, I’d assumed they would just be doing dance routines, but it turned out that three were backing singers and the other three were multi-instrumentalists, playing violins, mandolins, drums, and many other things. They were really good, as were the rest of the band, and I wish I could find out a bit more information about the performers online.

Because it was a long set, there were quite a few ‘transition songs’ that went on while Rod went offstage for a costume change. One of these was a cover of Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero, which, as I mentioned in my most recent Music Video Monday post, is a revered local anthem in Tyneside, and Rod (famously a football fanatic) introduced it by making reference to Newcastle United. I assumed that they must have chosen a locally important song for each stop on the tour, but apparently they also played Local Hero in Paris a few days previously, so it must just be part of the regular set for some reason. Another of these songs was a cover of Donna Summer’s She Works Hard For The Money, performed by the backing singers. I’ve had it my head for four days as a result!

After a series of slower songs, some of which were tracks from the latest album and some a lot older (a notable standout was a cover of Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town, which Rod first recorded and released fifty years ago this year), the show finished with four mostly-more-upbeat tracks that are arguably Rod’s biggest hits – Baby Jane, Sailing, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy, and Maggie May. The third of these was a lovely kitschy moment that involved pink neon leopardskin visuals onstage and hundreds of giant balloons falling from the ceiling. The final song, Maggie May, was technically an encore, but it was a bit confusing – the curtain only went down for a few brief seconds before rising again between the last two songs, and Rod never said anything along the lines of ‘thank you and goodnight’, and the lights didn’t go up for a good several minutes after the band went offstage for the last time…so there was a lot of clamouring from the audience for an encore that never came. I don’t think anyone could have complained about the set though.

Rod Stewart setlist:

Having A Party
Young Turks
Some Guys Have All The Luck
Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)
Stay With Me
Forever Young
Rhythm Of My Heart
The Killing Of Georgie
It Takes Two
Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me)
I’d Rather Go Blind
Rollin’ And Tumblin’
Local Hero
Grace
Reason To Believe
Dirty Old Town
I Don’t Want To Talk About It
Have I Told You Lately
She Works Hard For The Money
Baby Jane
Sailing
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?
Maggie May

A great hit-laden set and a great night out! I’m always really grateful that legendary artists like Rod are still out touring (rather than retiring like normal people!), as it means we can all continue to enjoy them.

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