Legend wows audience spanning five decades

Photo courtesy of Capital Records

Master storyteller and Grammy pop/rock legend, Rod Stewart, regaled the sold-out crowd during Wed night’s concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta. Despite the extreme heat, which he referred to on several occasions, Stewart gave a performance to delight the multigenerational audience, no small feat at 71 years old.

The two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and father of eight has amassed five decades of hits and does not appear to be retiring any time soon. On Oct 23, Stewart will be releasing his next album, Another Country, with Capital Records.

Opening for Stewart was Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, Richard Marx. As the only male artist to ever have his first seven singles reach the Top 5 of the Billboard charts and with an impressive list of hits over three decades.

Whether it was the heat (many ticket goers filtered in throughout the performance), or the open-air venue, the audience’s response was less than enthusiastic bordering on disrespectful as they spent more time in personal conversation than listening to Marx performance. For those that recognized his lyrical prowess and musicality, the performance was worthy of a headliner.

Marx kicked off the 50 minute set with “Endless Summer Nights” followed by other hits such as “Hold On To the Nights” and “Now and Forever.” He was able to grab the attention of the audience when former band member (and current member of Stewart’s assemble) accompanied Marx on slide guitar on “Don’t Mean Nothin’.”  Marx’s ballad “Right Here Waiting” had the audience singing in unison and prepared for the main attraction.

Sporting his signature hair style, raspy voice and dazzling silver jacket, Stewart opened with “Infatuation” and immediately had the audience on their feet. Even those that were not diehard fans were won over with his quirky dances moves and charming personality. After the well-received performance of Sam Cooke’s cover “Having a Party” and the Bonnie Tyler cover “It’s a Heartache,” Stewart turned to the audience with a silly grin and hands on hips and announced, “I’m Rod Stewart, and I’m a singer,” a tongue-in-cheek statement that brought down the house.

Supported by a ten piece band and three backup singers, Stewart performed a string of hits including “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” (The Persuaders cover) and “Rhythm of My Heart” and then it was off for a wardrobe change where Stewart returned in a gold sateen suit and high tops.

Six orchestra members from the Atlanta area including a harp accompaniment  joined the band on stage as the tempo was slowed for a rendition of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest” and the Faces’ “Ooh La La (I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now)” and his version of “Have I Told You Lately.” Before launching his solo career, Stewart was a member of the band, Faces, and is working on a reunion with the remaining members.

Stewart was obviously encouraged by the enthusiastic response to his recently released single “Love Is,” the fiddle-led, up-beat song reminiscent of his 70’s hits while still appealing to today’s younger audience, which is not surprising. Long before Mumford and Sons’ hoedowns and before Train reintroduced the ukulele to the pop genre, Rod Stewart was producing this sound to perfection.

In a particularly poignant moment, Stewart dedicated a portion of his concert honoring patriotism and the American flag. Obviously patriotism is something close to his heart. In a recent press gathering hosted by HitFix columnist Melinda Newman, Stewart spoke to what inspired his new album. “I’ve wondered about being in the armed forces, away from your sweetheart and your family. That must be heartbreaking … that is what Another Country is all about.”

The energy was again revved up to “Stay With Me” as Stewart, a former soccer player and avid fan, kicked autographed soccer balls into the sea of desperate fans vying for the souvenir.

Concluding the concert were megahits “Maggie May,” his first hit single as a solo artist in 1971, and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” (1978). Even though Stewart performed for two hours, it was apparent that the Atlanta heat was adversely affecting the performer and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the following night’s performance in Tuscaloosa, Al. Regardless, the show was energetic, hit-packed and well worth the price of admission.