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DEBORA SHAULIS | On the scene No longer a 'Young Turk,' can Rod Stewart wear it well?



Published: Sun, July 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



What was I thinking when I agreed to go to that Rod Stewart concert a few weeks ago?

There I was, odd woman out among 10,833 adoring fans at Post-Gazette Pavilion at Star Lake in western Pennsylvania. I'll bet just as many show up for Stewart's concert tonight at Gund Arena in Cleveland.

I've enjoyed many of Stewart's songs over the years -- "Maggie May," "The First Cut Is the Deepest," "Young Turks," "Motown Song." Still, I wouldn't call myself a fan. Only own one of his CDs, a greatest hits compilation. Never had a crush on him.

So what was I doing there? Even I wasn't sure as my friend Sharon (a Stewart devotee) and I took our seats. It wasn't until the rewind function in my mind stopped on 1978 that I began to understand.

"If you want my body and you think I'm sexy ... "

Suddenly, I remembered the first time I heard Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" I was 12. I was at Shari Janow's house in Niles. We were going to a party. She was still getting ready. There we were, two Catholic-school girls listening to the radio and giggling at rooster-haired Rod's come-on.

No encore: I knew Stewart wouldn't sing that song at Star Lake, not only because I had his set list in hand, but because it's been widely reported that Stewart loathes that disco-era chart-topper today.

I also now knew that curiosity had propelled me to the concert. Would he be as audacious today as I perceived him to be two decades earlier?

Yes and no.

When it comes to a rock 'n' roller's wardrobe, Stewart still wears it (and that spiky hair) well. He started the show in modest garb -- a mint-green, tuxedolike jacket, crisp white shirt and black slacks. After intermission, he sported snakeskin-print jeans with leg openings as narrow as cigarettes. By encore time, he was wearing a tailored fuschia suit. All this from a guy who's old enough to have attended high school at the same time as my father.

Stewart's voice is a little darker, a little raspier, than it was in the '70s. It may have something to do with throat surgery he underwent a few years ago, but it's just as likely the result of aging. Whatever the reason, he's not reaching for as many high notes these days. Almost all of the songs he performed live were taken down a few vocal steps.

Aging rocker syndrome: Nonetheless, Rod Stewart has something in common with Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and the other senior members of rock's elite who play on. It's showmanship. Their collective thought seems to be, give 'em everything you've got at every age.

For Stewart, that means surrounding himself with excellent musicians (especially his long-winded saxophonist), dancing up a storm and playing to the crowd as much as possible.

He sounds silly, not outrageous, singing songs such as "Hot Legs" at the age of 56. On the other hand, he's still superb at the interpretive ballads that have been the hallmarks of his career -- "You're In My Heart," "Downtown Train," "Forever Young."

Am I thinking of joining Stewart's fan club? Nah. I'm just not the odd woman out anymore.

XShaulis is the entertainment editor. Write her at shaulis@vindy.com.




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