Live: Rod Stewart & Stevie Nicks, Houston
Have to admit – the prospects of a live rock show at the tail end of a busy week weren’t exactly appealing. But Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks, concluding their U.S. tour together at the Toyota Center on Thursday (8/9) won us over.
Ace photographer Art Meripol, in town on assignment, and I decided to forgo the regular cameras and fool around with our iPhones. In the process, the music drew us in.
Serving as opening act, Nicks came out smokin’ – her crack band, led by guitar whiz Waddy Wachtel, ripped out a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” and we were off to the races. Four songs in she deployed “Dreams” by demurely admitting “I didn’t know this till recently … but this was Fleetwood Mac’s only No. 1 hit.” Hey babe, I learned that off the internet (Wikipedia is your friend). Stevie then doubled down with “Gold Dust Woman” from the monster Rumours (1977) and her solo hit “Stand Back.”
Following a long (maybe a little too long) story about visiting wounded veterans in Washington, we got “Soldier’s Angel,” inspired by those visits. Then, thankfully, “Rhiannon,” and to close it out, “Edge Of Seventeen” and “Landslide.” You gotta hand it to Stevie Nicks: of all the rocker chicks from the 1970s, she’s pretty much one of the few who have survived intact to remain interesting today.
And then we have Rod Stewart. We like to pick on the guy because he’s, well, Rod Stewart. But you gotta hand it to him – he’s a consummate entertainer.
In a roughly two-hour set Rod played 19 songs, 11 of which were cover versions. At least he didn’t dip into the Great American Songbook for them. He opened with the O Jays’ “Love Train” and hit his stride later with a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party.”
But happily Stewart’s set was front-loaded with his biggest hits, including “Tonight’s The Night,” which came early in the set. Unfortunately, so did “Young Turks.” After that, though, Rod showed some slides of the kids and grandkids like a beaming dad then dedicated his rewrite of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” to all of ‘em.
He invited out a group of local ladies called the Houston Strings to join him and members of his band at the front of the stage for his “Unplugged and Seated” portion of the show. Playing (mostly) acoustically, they offered shimmering versions of Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately” and Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is The Deepest.”
Then he pointed out how his record label screwed up way back: for the first single off Stewart’s landmark album Every Picture Tells A Story (1971), the label decided on “Reason To Believe.” The song they didn’t have much faith in, “Maggie May,” they stuck on the B-side. “Thankfully a DJ in Cleveland flipped it over and started playing it (“Maggie May”) on the radio,” said Stewart, “and that’s why we’re all here tonight!” Which is how he introduced “Reason To Believe.”
“Maggie May,” the monster hit, would close out the show after rockin’ out with Chuck Berry and Creedence covers, as well as “You’re In My Heart” and “Hot Legs.” Have to admit, though, we didn’t stay for the encore, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” which was a question the close-to-sold-out crowd answered a long time before.
YouTube: “The First Cut Is The Deepest” from the Toyota Center concert