Rod Stewart is now our leading superstar bottom feeder, holding on to his commercial franchise by clumsily manipulating the innovations of his aging contemporaries. Say what you will about the flaccid Eric Clapton: his merchandising–from the early boxed set Crossroads to the quadruple-plus platinum Unplugged–has put him at the financial forefront of sellout 60s has-beens. Stewart’s boxed sets–which have come, inevitably, a year or two after Clapton’s (Storyteller, Unplugged . . . and Seated)–are lackluster even by the standards of the genre and are selling but a fraction of Clapton’s, though plenty to keep Rod in hair spray and soccer shoes. Stewart’s original appeal, it’s worth remembering, was the product of a karmic joke that put unexpected helpings of naivete manifested through a yearning voice and a handful or two of unnervingly emotional and memorable songs–into the soul of a clueless jock. On an unholy record like the recent Unplugged . . . and Seated, Stewart’s attempts to recapture that innocence are predictably awkward: so many years on, he’s emotionally deaf. The whole thing makes so little of an impression that you almost don’t notice he’s rerecorded “The First Cut Is the Deepest”–a nice way to pump cash into the coffers of Muslim fanatic Cat Stevens, supporter of the fatwah on Salman Rushdie. Classy move, Rod. Thursday, February 24, 7:30 PM, Rosemont Horizon, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont; 708-635-6600 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Robert Mattheu.