Review: Ageless rocker Sir Rod Stewart travels back in time for delightfully inappropriate Auckland show

REVIEW: "So, honey, have you brought any knickers to throw on stage?"

"No, of course not. Why would you say that?"

"Well, Rod Stewart is kinda famous for his tight trousers and it might be the kind of concert where women feel obliged to throw their knickers on stage. I know they do it for Tom Jones, so maybe Rod Stewart too."

"Well, I don't think that's the kind of thing I would do at a concert."

"OK, I'm just saying, don't be surprised."

It's hard to know what to expect from a 78-year-old icon, as famous for his offstage dalliances as his achievements on the musical charts. 

Of course, one of his many high-profile relationships was a 16-year marrriage to our own Rachel Hunter, so perhaps New Zealand still holds a special place the London-born Scot's heart.

Would we get a crooner in the class of Sinatra or the original 'Rocking Rod'... or something in between?

Regardless, he would undoubtedly prove a charming host for our nine-year anniversary (or is it 10?) celebration, as we splashed through the rain to Auckland's Spark Arena.

Arriving just as support act Jon Stevens struck up the opening chords of his set, we were treated to an almost forgotten treasure of NZ music. 

His career jump-started more than 40 years ago with a cover of Bobby Bloom's 'Montego Bay' that reached No.1 in the local charts, but Stevens has since crossed the Tasman, playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and fronting bands like Noiseworks and even INXS, after Michael Hutchence's tragic death.

He has a massive repetoire to choose from and crammed seven choice tracks - including 'New Sensation', 'Never Tear Us Apart' and 'No Lies' - into his designated 30ish minutes. Stevens paid only passing homage to his original hit, before launching into a powerful version of 'Take Me Back' to an auditorium lit by audience cell phones. 

"Wow, he could be the main act," declared Ms Nine-Year Anniversary. "He's not marketing himself right."

But Stevens wasn't everyone's cup of tea. After discovering we were in the wrong seats, we ended up back out in the foyer, where some disgruntled Sir Rod Stewart fans weren't happy with the choice of opening act.

"Too loud… there must be better bands in New Zealand, why couldn't they get one of those?"

Last time we saw Cyndi Lauper, she was touring with Blondie in 2017 and played the same venue.

The 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' performer didn't seem to be having that much fun at the time and she has been very forthright in recent years about the toll psoriasis has taken on her career.

This time, Kooky Cyndi came out to play, wearing a canary-yellow suit and top hat with big ears, sporting a purple spiky hairdo and opening with a dancing-prancing version of 'Hole in My Heart'.

Rod Stewart in full flight at Auckland
Rod Stewart in full flight at Auckland. Photo credit: Tom Grut

Energy levels remained high with 'She Bop' (apparently a song about masturbation), 'Time After Time' took things down a level.

At 69, Lauper absolutely blew her audience away with a soaring rendition of 'I Drove All Night' that showed off her impressive vocal range. She teased everyone with a cover of Rod Stewart's 'Sailing' that threatened to upstage her main act, before seguing into the moving 'Sally's Pigeons', a song dedicated to women's right to choose abortion.

Almost at odds with her zany persona, Lauper has become involved in many serious causes, highlighted by her Girls Just Wanna Have Fun-damental Rights undertaking, but she represented those beliefs onstage without becoming overly preachy.

Of course, she rounded off her show with the song that sparked that movement and 'True Colours', an LGBT+ anthem.

The one regret - especially after her 'Sailing' tribute - was that Lauper never shared the stage with Stewart. They have toured previously and occasionally performed duets together, but as it turned out, perhaps Lauper's sensibilities were not a great fit with the tenor of the main act. 

Sir Rod Stewart set that tone early, 

Backed by a bevy of gyrating beauties, he emerged with a version of 'Addicted To Love', a Robert Palmer hit that featured a video panned for its misogynistic overtones. How clever and witty of Stewart to open with such a tongue-in-cheek parody.

Turns out this wasn't a pisstake - the whole show was like this.

The sly old dog!

This was like when Austin Powers wakes from his cryo-slumber, and tries to bring the perfectly unacceptable behaviour from the 60s into the less tolerant 90s and beyond. 

Stewart has a definite penchant for blondes - apparently, they have more fun - and spent much of his two hours and 23 songs shamelessly flirting with his backing singers, even sitting on a lap at one point.

Surely, an HR complaint just waiting to happen…

Fortunately, his female companions could do more than just dance seductively. They could also violin seductively, tap-dance seductively, harp seductively… even bass-drum seductively, which is no mean feat.

Becca Kotte capably stood in for Tina Turner in a duet of 'It Takes Two' and, collectively, they out-Pointer-Sistered the Pointer Sisters on 'I'm So Excited'.   

Rod Stewart performs at Spark Arena
Rod Stewart performs at Spark Arena. Photo credit: Tom Grut

"More like I'm so indicted," mumbled Stewart, as he retook the stage immediately afterwards, probably verbalising what everyone else was thinking.

Maybe no-one else could pull off this trick, with a smile and wink, like that dear old lecherous grandad, telling his inappropriate jokes at the family gathering, but always invited back to the next.

Vocally, Stewart did not disappoint, reeling off hit after hit - 'You Wear It Well', 'Maggie May', 'First Cut Is The Deepest', 'Young Hearts', 'Downtown Train', 'I Don't Want To Talk About It'… they were all there.

He has the musical chops to seamlessly dip into others' playlists, channelling Palmer again ('Some Guys Have All The Luck'), Sam Cooke ('Twisting The Night Away') and John Fogarty ('Have You Ever Seen The Rain').

Stewart showed his own political leanings, when he dressed in the colours of the Ukrainian flag for 'Rhythm of My Heart', but he also had advice for the local council.

"I love Auckland, but your pavements are all wonky," he said. "You've got to fill those potholes up."

He wound up his show with 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?' and 'Sailing', which felt like a promise he would be back again, probably as an octogenarian next time.

Stewart has had a tough few months, losing his beloved Queen and two brothers in quick succession. Hopefully, he has found some solace in his visit to an old stomping ground.

For the record, he still does those tight trousers fair justice... but no knickers were thrown.

Happy anniversary, Honey.