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| 12 March 2023 | Reply

RAC ARENA, Perth, Western Australia – Saturday, 11 March 2023
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Damien Crocker

The Boorloo (Perth) crowd were out early and eager for some vintage rock n’ roll tonight, the RAC Arena three quarters full for opener Jon Stevens and in fine voice accompanying his all-too-short set of classics cherry-picked from his Noiseworks days, with a couple of INXS numbers he sang during his time with the band.

He sounds as great as always, soulful and rocking in equal measure, his set culminating in a rousing Take Me Back, the appreciative audience gleefully sharing a sea of phone lights with the Kiwi legend.

It’s the first night of this much-postponed tour, and Cyndi Lauper admits she hasn’t performed live much since COVID turned our world upside down. Resplendent in a hot pink houndstooth three-piece suit, the pop princess emerges from a door in a prop wall on the stage, swathes of neon Eighties colour splashed across the large video screen, footage of her old video clips jostling for space with live video and new graphics for Hole In My Heart.

Lauper’s mohawk-adjacent strawberry blonde spikes bounce as she shows herself still full of the jerky, new wave energy of her chart hit heyday, albeit slowed a little as she nears her seventieth birthday, but she has the crowd in the palm of her hand from the get go.

Favourite She Bop – one of the finest musical odes to masturbation – is next, before she addresses the crowd in her Brooklyn drawl, “How you doing, darls?” and – as chatty as the crowd are enthusiastic – embarks on a rambling, funny intro that talks about doing Rod Stewart covers with an early band before getting the sack because “they didn’t like the way I moved,” attesting that it was fate, lest she ended up working cruise ships, “and I can’t swim – so fuck that!”

It’s partly nervous energy from the self-confessed “weird kid” and endearing in such an assured performer, though there’s some unrest apparent on stage – a little persistent feedback here, a little sloppiness in the band there – and she seems slightly out of sorts.

The theme to beloved coming of age film The Goonies is next, then Into The Nightlife, introduced hilariously as, “we had one for the wankers, one for the Goonies, here’s one for the clubbers!” Time After Time, I Drove All Night and Money Changes Everything all highlight Lauper’s voice, stronger than many expected from this quirky pop star whose Eighties hits were sometimes delivered in squeaky tones.

After a quick, unspecified wardrobe repair behind the scenes she whispers to the piano player and they launch into the refrain from Rod’s Sailing, segueing into pro-abortion track Sally’s Pigeons, playing a steel guitar on a stand, accompanied by a touching animated short film.

She couples with guitarist Kat Dyson for a bluesy snippet of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, before explaining how the 2017 Women’s March in the wake of Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration and misogynistic policy platforms led to her most famous song being co-opted to this worthy cause as Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental Human Rights. This is also the name of a charitable fund she established last year to support basic human rights for women in the face of the shockingly retrogressive US Supreme Court decision citing Roe vs Wade, outlawing access to legal abortions for many American women. Video and stills of women sporting placards and t-shirts with the slogan are featured on the video backdrop as they play the full song, deftly turning her version of Robert Hazard’s pop hit about gender equality into a fully-fledged protest song.

Not My Father’s Song – one of the tracks Lauper wrote for the Kinky Boots musical – segues into one her most beloved hits True Colours, and again the Arena is awash in phone lights and singalongs, not to mention resounding cheering and applause, especially when she and her backing singers raise their fists in an empowering feminist salute, before Lauper conducts the crowd and band to finish the song and the set.

Surprisingly, as she exits the stage it appears she’s unhappy with the performance, berating her band and crew off-mic before fully offstage. They may have missed a few cues and possibly been a little under-rehearsed, but she needn’t have been so concerned, the Perth crowd were extremely happy to have her present in such fine voice, and delivering a wonderfully entertaining AND meaningful show.

Sir Rod Stewart’s stage is dressed even more minimally: who knew that a few risers for the band, shiny black floors, and backdrops featuring cuttings and album covers of his barely comparable sixty-plus-year career could look quite so classy.

Tape of Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough raises the volume and leads into Scotland The Brave, and then a cavalcade of hits, favourites and singalongs follow – as well as a few surprises and head scratching moments. The audience are heavily invested – often in fuller voice than ol’ Rockin’ Rod, which is saying something considering how rich and robust his vocals remain, despite having turned 78 just two months hence.

Where does one start a much-delayed tour looking back over six-plus decades? Apparently, you start it with a cover of Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love, Rod’s backing vocalists and percussionists mimicking the models in the original Eighties music video.

You Wear It Well complements that famously raspy voice with a lively fiddle, his sparkly jacket highlighting the Rod In Vegas vibe (with a Celtic twist), and old Faces track Ooh La La is always a joy to hear and sing along with, it’s chorus “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger” taking on extra poignancy as all of us edge older and older.

At first glance it’s stereotypical ‘Blondes Have More Fun’ Rodders to have the front line of his band a handful of beautiful, mostly blonde model-alikes, but not only do they not seem to mind the tight sparkly shorts or kicking their heels up on the shiny floor, but they all prove to be extremely talented multi-instrumentalists, dancers and singers.

The Vegas illusion is completed with a video of the bright lights and casino tables during Some Guys Have All The Luck, which also features a ripping sax solo bringing to mind the late, great Clarence Clemmons.

2020’s Rod is certainly closer to Elvis’s Vegas cabaret days than the ‘60s blues rocker he was all those decades ago, but if anyone’s earnt to right to mellow out it’s him. As much as some of us would have liked a bit more raunch with our roll, it’s undeniable that the Perth crowd almost took the roof off with their appreciative volume, and lapped up every singalong, every gyration, and every lascivious grin. These really are his people, and truth be told there are very few performers who can work a crowd like Rod Stewart.

There’s something for everyone – an eclectic career begets an eclectic set list in this case – and his cover of Muddy Water’s Rollin’ and Tumblin’ features all the raunch lacking in other areas, not to mention more cowbell and gnarled-tree-root sounding slide guitar.

“It’s a sweatbox tonight – I’m workin’ for ya!” delights the Grandmas present, possibly reminiscing about seeing him in his younger, more single days, and First Cut Is The Deepest and the first of several costume changes are next – his zebra stripes and tight, tight pants [“I got this outfit on the high street today – at Zara”] not too far removed from the old days.

Maggie May starts so slow they might be on mogadon, before livening up to its rightful pace, and I Would Rather Go Blind – recorded with great mate Ronnie Wood in the early seventies, “Studio 2, 2 bottles of wine, 2 takes, and this is what happened” – is a stunning version of Etta James’ amazing song, proving that Rod’s voice is still as incredible as ever.

He dances like the best looking rooster in town during Eighties hit Young Turks – and let’s face it, he was for a long time, and is still as charismatic as they come. Now wearing the Blue and Yellow of the Ukrainian flag, he delivers Rhythm Of My Heart in tribute to the besieged country. “All wars are disgusting,” he says, and never a truer word said. Ironically, at this meaningful moment he has his own wardrobe malfunction, his shirt popping open, and he modestly holds the outfit together until an appropriate break in the song to do the buttons up.

Rod now offstage, the band fronted by Joanne Harper cover Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. It’s a bizarre choice some thought a little too cabaret, but the majority show no signs of their enjoyment flagging, and Stewart is soon returned for Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, a song he did with the recently departed Jeff Beck, now delivered acoustic with the band seated front of stage. I Don’t Want To Talk About It and Tonight’s The Night get sixteen thousand singing along – Rod insisting before the latter that every note you hear is played live. “A lot of people mime nowadays. It’s bollocks.”

The band are intimate and seasoned during this segment especially, joking warmly amongst themselves, giving us the impression we were sitting in on an informal rehearsal or studio session.

You’re In My Heart is tweaked into a love song for his beloved Celtic Football Club, who he’s been giving running score updates for the Scottish Cup Quarter Finals (they won three-nil), and Have I Told You Lately again soars thanks to his remarkable vocals.

Yet again Rod exits, and the girls sing Lady Marmalade. Yeah, it’s entertaining enough, I suppose, but it’s a Rod Stewart concert and this is the third or fourth song he’s been absent for – and another unrelated cover, whilst so many of his own hits are ignored. C’mon mate.

Baby Jane, a big hit in the mid Eighties but not immediately remembered nowadays, is a slightly deeper cut for the fans, then megahit Do Ya Think I’m Sexy closes out the main set, Stewart sharing a photo on the screen of his questionable fashion sense of the time. “This is a photo of me in 1979. Go on – have a big laugh – I do! Olivia Newton-John suggested I wear those pants, we had the same tailor!”

Stewart’s show is undeniably entertaining and hugely appreciated – “tremendous” in the words of one flushed and happy woman as we left – and a gloriously kitsch Sailing closes a great night of music from three world class entertainers.

Rod Stewart Set List:
Addicted To Love
You Wear It Well
Ooh La La
Having A Party
Some Guys Have All The Luck
It Takes Two
Rollin’ And Tumblin’
First Cut Is The Deepest
Maggie May
I Would Rather Go Blind
Young Turks
Rhythm Of My Heart
I’m Every Woman
People Get Ready
I Don’t Wanna Talk About It
Tonight’s The Night
You’re In My Heart
Baby Jane
Do Ya Think I’m Sexy


Cyndi Lauper Set List:
Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)
She Bop
The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough
Into the Nightlife
Time After Time
I Drove All Night
Money Changes Everything
Sailing refrain/Sally’s Pigeons
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Not My Father’s Son/True Colors

Jon Stevens Set List:
Never Tear Us Apart
No Lies
Hot Chilli Woman
Don’t Change
Take Me Back


Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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