Tom Jones is missing in action and Tony Bennett doesn’t come around much anymore. So it’s up to Rod Stewart to be the senior hep cat of Las Vegas.
Las Vegas needs — nay, demands — a gray lion, Phase-Two Sean Connery to serve as old-guy-on-the-town role model, ever since Sinatra settled into the autumn of his years at Caesars Palace in 1974.
And now — and at least through next year — Caesars plays host to Stewart, who has enough character wrinkles in his 69-year-old face to make us appreciate the vitality of his duck-walk on to that ridiculously large Colosseum at Caesars Palace stage in his white jacket and black-and-white two-tones.
Members of the press were invited back last week on the promise of an overhauled set list and a guest appearance by Carlos Santana, who will tour with Stewart this summer. The latter promise was fulfilled on this one night by Santana and his lyrical guitar making a virtual duet of the gritty blues ballad “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
But the set list was largely unchanged from last fall (given that Stewart’s flexible light show makes it easier than roomies Celine and Shania to swap out a song or two). So instead of rehashing a November review that’s easily kicked up by a search engine, here’s a few more reasons to believe Stewart should play Las Vegas until he drops dead kicking a soccer ball from the stage.
■ Why just have a band when you can have “The Mini-Skirt Mob”? A proud employer of women, Stewart makes sure not just his backup singers, but his horn section and fiddler surround him like Charlie’s Angels. At one point, six sparkly fuchsia dresses are spread across the stage, the better to frame the cat who can still pull off red trousers topped by a floral-pattern shirt.
There’s that odd, high-heel kettle-drum duet. And when Stewart rolls in an extra string section for a few extra songs? Well the album was called “Blondes Have More Fun.”
■ “Alright Mr. Caesar, I’m ready for my close-up.” You can pay a lot of money for the Colosseum’s divas and be really, really frustrated that the giant overhead screens only show you conceptual video instead of their faces.
But Rod rocks the video screens in full “Twistin’ the Night Away” body shots, along with close-ups which prove every picture tells a story: that wizened face shooting us a knowing eyebrow as his voice reaches for the final “find …” when he sings, “Still I look to find a reason to believe.”
■ Damn the Teleprompters, full speed ahead. Stewart doesn’t say much, but when he does it pays to listen. There is usually a new way to suggest weeknight audiences at the Colosseum could be a bit more effusive in their praise. This time, it was “Every night can’t be Christmas, can it?”
And along with his usual dedication of “Rhythm of My Heart” to the troops, Stewart mused that the Russian incursion in Ukraine is “like World War II starting all over again,” before telling himself, “Cheer up Rod, let’s get on with it.”
■ An hour and a half to cover about 45 years of career means tough choices. Just as the heavy face grounds the flyaway hair, a single song or two can be all you need to remember Stewart was more than just “Infatuation” or “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
This time around, you might have joined me in missing “The Killing of Georgie,” while thanking yourself he has given up on the standards albums. At least we got the Faces anthem “Stay With Me.”
■ Sinatra never booted soccer balls into the balcony. With previous Las Vegas legends, an awkward question lingered: When is it time to hang it up? With Sinatra, we winced as he blew the lyrics on the prompter screen in front of him. With Dean Martin, it was seeing him slumped on a stool, clutching his chest.
But here, metrics. A tangible barometer. An acid test. When Stewart can no longer land a ball at least in the middle-priced seats, it’s time to go home and count the money. But Mr. Old Guy In Blazer who almost started a fight to wrestle a ball away from your neighbor? You can go home now.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.