Do ya think this is sexy?
  • Taylor Mauch
  • Do ya think this is sexy?

There are two reasons I went to see Rod Stewart at Allstate Arena on Saturday. The first is that between 1967 and 1973 Stewart’s output rivaled any major pop artist of the last 50 years, including: two acid-blues albums with the earliest incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group; four albums with the Faces, the famous, shambling folk-blues-rock band he was in with Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and Kenney Jones; and four more solo albums that were basically Faces albums released under Stewart’s name—one of those albums, 1971’s Every Picture Tells a Story, is just about perfect.

The second reason is that my girlfriend is the biggest Rod Stewart fan I’ve ever met in my life.

I’m not kidding. She keeps a Stewart book written by Lester Bangs and Paul Nelson prominently featured on a shelf in our apartment. She owns a Hungarian Rod Stewart poster she found on the street in Europe. She will defend Foot Loose and Fancy Free and Blondes Have More Fun and especially 1988’s Out of Order, in particular “My Heart Can’t Tell Me No.” When I told her we were going to see Rod Stewart, her reaction was something like this:

The show wasn’t a Stewart-only affair—Santana opened, and one could say that this was a coheadlining gig. I didn’t have a car, so we decided to take the Blue Line to Rosemont to catch the show. Before we embarked on the CTA, my girlfriend suggested we stop at 7-Eleven and grab some alcohol to paper bag on the way there. In the store, my girlfriend dared me to drink a mango-peach-flavored vodka-soda drink called Monaco. I took up her dare—it tasted like fizzy vodka filled with cake frosting and handfuls of tropical Skittles, and at times I thought I was going to be sick. Santana’s set was kind of the way Monaco tastes.

Santana’s set was 90 minutes long, which means it was at least an hour too long. While he played everything from “Evil Ways” to a not-bad rendition of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” most of the show consisted of generic noodling and filler that didn’t need to be there. Like Santana’s black short-sleeved button-up shirt and black pants, the set was too loose. Personally, my favorite part of the whole performance was when Santana brought out his wife to do an impressive drum solo. My least favorite part was when they encored with “Smooth,” because no one needs to hear that song ever again.

Early on I realized that my girlfriend and I were by far the youngest people in attendance, at least in our immediate vicinity. Granted, Stewart is 69 years old, but I was still surprised to see so few young people in the audience (and by “younger” I mean anyone under 40). The audience felt heavily male and heavily in favor of wearing Tommy Bahama (whoever works in TB’s marketing department and failed to open a pop-up store at this show, you dropped the ball). And I have rarely seen such unabashed air-guitaring from anyone, let alone dozens of men in baggy palm-fronds-printed shirts with AARP cards.

One problem with Santana’s set is that certain performances made it appear as if the guitarist took himself too seriously—you could hardly accuse Stewart of taking himself seriously at all. If this setup had any aesthetic, it was some mutated mashup of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video and the Viagra Triangle circa 2004. Stewart and his band, when there weren’t costume changes, at times looked like they were all competing in a Karl Lagerfeld lookalike contest. His talented violinist and mandolinist was an attractive brunette in a miniskirt. The lead saxophonist was a blonde in a red miniskirt, because Rod Stewart.

  • Tal Rosenberg
  • Rod Stewart before two costume changes and an hour of ribald behavior

Despite playing “Infatuation” and some unfortunate choices in covers, my girlfriend was having a ball and dancing the whole time. I couldn’t fault her completely—Stewart managed to pump out spirited performances of “You Wear it Well” and the Faces’ “Stay With Me,” songs I frankly didn’t expect him to play. It was at some point during this sequence that a rather large older gentleman behind us yelled at my girlfriend to sit down—at a rock concert—because he and his wife couldn’t see. The way he made this request was not very nice. Quite upset, my girlfriend— an exceedingly kind, generous person—sat down in a manner that indicated she was visibly and deeply upset. Unhappy with the way this interaction took place, I said something to the guy behind me. The following is our interaction exactly as it went down.

Me: You know, the way you told her to sit down wasn’t very nice and was frankly very rude. I think you should apologize.

Guy behind me: You wanna go outside?!

Me: Why would I want to go outside?

Guy: I WILL RIP YOUR FUCKING EYES OUT! [hands making strangling gesture, pointed straight at me].

Yikes! Having gone to many concerts over the past 20-or-so years, I’ve never experienced so much immediate hostility at a show before (when I was 14, a guy wearing a swastika pulled me out of a mosh pit that nearly crushed me, to give you some frame of reference). All of this escalated quickly, and there was some unnecessary uneasiness for the remainder of the show, but that didn’t stop ol’ Rod from trying to lighten the mood! During an acoustic sequence, Stewart and his band pulled out chairs and sat down; at one point, Rod sat on one of his dancers’ lap during a sax solo. Because unpredictability is not a characteristic of a Rod Stewart concert, they closed with “Maggie May.” For an encore, Stewart performed “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” in a cowboy hat while five of the inflatable-tube guys from used-car lots flopped around behind the band.

Rod Stewart and the guy sitting behind me had something in common (aside from their wives’ frequent shame)—they both exhibited embarrassing demonstrations of elderly selfishness. But at least Rod Stewart was trying to have a good time and make sure everyone else was having a good time too. May he never stop trying.