Rod Stewart planning for fun, changes as Las Vegas show begins

You can never be all things to all people. But when you look at 40 years of the big picture, Rod Stewart’s done a fair job of juggling the various interests of his fans.

Rockers from the Faces days may have written off the raspy-voiced Scotsman after five albums of crooning the standards. But he sold a ton of those "Great American Songbook" discs, so a lot of invisible people must like them. "I don’t know who buys them," he confesses, "but they don’t seem to show up at the Rod concerts."

So he still describes what he does as rock ‘n’ roll. Just because the once-and-future sex machine is 66, with two young children at home, don’t expect a night of domesticated crooning in his new showcase at Caesars Palace. "It’s a strange phenomenon," he says, "but we’ve tried to put in some of the standards and it never seems to work."

Moreover, the singer took time to chat last week during Los Angeles recording sessions for a new album, one that’s based in the blues and has him writing songs again. As soon as this talk was over, he planned to take a crack at a different kind of standard, Them’s 1965 hit "Here Comes the Night."

Stewart hopes to help write five or six originals for the album, which he is recording in lieu of a reunion with guitarist Jeff Beck that has been delayed by "a few contractual things to sort out."

The album could end up being a mix of genres "the way they used to be, when if I felt like doing a country song, I would." He’s just "waiting for the penny to drop" in terms of inspiration for lyrics to some good tunes already tracked by band members he’s worked with since the 1980s.

"It’ll come to me overnight," he trusts. And until then, he’s likely to track the tunes with "anything that comes into my mind." Fans who are devout enough to check out an early demo of "Maggie May" on his box set can hear that "about half of that ad-lib stuff ends up on the final track."

Stewart took the Colosseum at Caesars Palace for a test drive last November, before signing a more serious commitment of about 50 shows over two years. The first stint opened Wednesday — with plans for Stewart’s arrival to be heralded by synchronized swimmers in the Caesars pool — and continues through Sept. 11.

Last year’s debut packed a predictable set list of expected hits into less than 90 minutes. This time, the singer says he will reach a little further, including less-obvious choices such as "Broken Arrow," the Robbie Robertson song that charted for Stewart in 1991 but wouldn’t be on most lists of his essential hits.

He also plans an acoustic segment resurrecting the tour captured on the "Unplugged … and Seated" album in 1993. But as far as the "seated" goes, "I like walking about the Colosseum."

Last year’s fans saw a lot of changes between opening and closing night. Fans ended up onstage, and they behaved well enough that there’s no reason for that not to continue. And, he adds with a laugh in his voice, there is no reason to ban cameras like some of the Colosseum’s previous occupants.

"They’ve gotta know it’s gonna be fun," he says, with a set list that could change from night to night. "I’ve never taken life too seriously."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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