'I’m not going to take my trousers down, not this time': Rod Stewart talks ahead of Wolverhampton Molineux show
Picking up the call from Palm Beach to be put through to Rod Stewart, there’s no mistaking the gravely tones of a musical icon who’s been honoured the world over.
During his six decades in the music industry – with chart-topping albums in each one of those – that distinctive voice has kept Rod at the top, with success across all genres of popular music, from rock to folk, soul and the classic American Songbook, and record sales totalling more than 200million worldwide.
And now he is coming to the West Midlands, filling Molineux as part of an extensive tour that he is relishing with energy that belies his 74 years.
Following on from his latest release – Blood Red Roses, which debuted at number one in the UK album chart – Sir Rod Stewart is promising fans a special night.
The touring schedule – billed as his biggest UK tour to date – could be daunting, with sold-out football stadiums and indoor and outdoor arenas in the diary, but there’s clearly no sign of Rod retiring, as many of his peers have… Yet.
A crowd of 25,000 is expected for the show, the first at the stadium since Bon Jovi appeared in 2003.
The show, which will also feature Celtic folk and Americana band Johnny Mac and The Faithful, will be held on June 8, three weeks after the end of the season.
It comes just two years after the singer thrilled a 20,000 crowd in the rain at Shrewsbury Town's Montgomery Waters Stadium. He will also be back in the region in December for a Christmas show at Arena Birmingham
He admits he loves the big stadium concerts and it happy to embrace getting old and still being a rock star.
“I’m proud of my age… And most of my peers are dead, not retired,” he laughs.
“I enjoy it, that’s what it comes down to. There will be a time, I’m sure, for retirement and I’m closer than I was years ago.
“To me, retirement is not a lovely word. People always talk about ‘looking forward to retiring’ but for me that’s an awful thought. I’m lucky I have a brilliant job that I love, and as long as I enjoy it and people are coming out in their droves to the shows then I will go on.”
And to keep up physically, Rod reels off a string of activities: Three personal trainer sessions a week, swimming, playing football with his youngest sons, rowing.
Explaining his regime, the star said: “I always make the comparison with football, which I’ve played all my life; it’s an ugly game if you’re not fit and everyone’s running past you, leaving you behind. But if you’re keeping up, it’s beautiful.”
With Blood Red Roses his 30th studio album, there’s plenty of tracks to choose from when it comes to planning a tour – the hits really are too many to mention. How do you create a set list with that many songs available?
“We know there are certain songs people love to hear, of course, but I like to bring back ones from way back when, and there’ll be a fair sprinkling of those, probably two from Blood Red Roses and a couple from the two albums before that Time and Another Country,” Rod explains
“People want to hear the songs like I Don’t Wanna Talk About It, and that keeps them in the show.
And we don’t really drop tracks, we change the show every night; from a set list of maybe 20 songs, for example track 15 every night we’ll change it and decide each night what it’ll be, so every crowd gets a slightly different show.
“It keeps the band on their toes – and they keep me on mine! It’s a big band, six girls, six men and they’re very lively, it’s good to have the youngsters around.”
Also featuring in the 2019 tour will be special guests Johnny Mac And The Faithful, opening the summer shows after being hand-picked by Rod himself.
After hearing their music at Celtic matches and events, Rod had fallen for their barn-storming Irish-influenced Americana sound, with one instrumental especially standing out.
“I’d heard them play over the years but never knew anything about who they were,” he said. “And one time I was watching footage of the players training on Celtic’s TV channel, and I loved the background music which was being used. I looked all over the place to find out what it was. I thought it was a band from Australia and we’d tracked it down… But it turned out it was Johnny, and they were on the doorstep. I instantly had lyrics to go with the music, and that led to us co-writing Julia on Blood Red Roses.
“Johnny supplies all the music for Celtic Football Club and is a big supporter, like I am, and I think they’re brilliant. I really like the music; it’s real party music, just want you need to warm up the audience, but they are a very, very flexible band and very talented. I wanted to give him a chance.”
Recent years have seen Rod back writing, after his exploration of the Great American Songbook in the Noughties. He’d turned away from penning his own music for several years after losing confidence in the early Nineties, as documented in his 2012 book Rod: The Autobiography.
“When I wrote my book, that sparked in me the realisation that I had stories still to tell, about my early beginnings, my dad, and that book spawned the writing, it came back to me,” he said.
“I had thought it had gone and left me, but it doesn’t really, it’s not a physical thing, you just have to put your mind to it. I teamed up again with Kevin Savigar, my co-writer and producer now, and he brought it out of me again.
“There was a point when I didn’t even want to go into the studio again too. I couldn’t bear the thought of going into the dark studio space. But again, it was Kevin who got me back, he came along and we started doing it on our computers.
“He would write a tune, send it to me, I’d ‘la-di-diddly-dah’ over it and send it back. We’d add drum machines or whatever, and see how it sounded, then if we felt it needed a drummer, we would get a drummer in, and embellish it with real musicians… And all the while, I’d be seeing daylight and enjoying fresh air.
“I don’t think I jump on bandwagons, maybe a little bit with disco and Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, but mainly I’ve followed my own instincts and I’m glad to see changes in the industry, and it stepping up a bit.
“What we do, rock and roll, is such an innocent form of music, using the same chords and themes time and time again, but it stays fresh.”
Then there’s the variety of each show and each audience bringing something different.
“Whether it’s a small festival or a bloody great big one, we give every show the same 110 per cent. We have played to 54 people once, for a wealthy Russian man in Rome who must have only known 50 people – and he invited all of them. He paid me a lot of money, and we gave the same show as we would at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s funny when it’s smaller like that, or in Vegas, not everybody there is a Rod Stewart fan so you have to win them over, it’s not like doing a show in Britain where everybody wants the night to be a success and to have a good time.”
And what can fans heading to the shows this year expect?
“A total load of flipping rubbish…,” followed by that gravely laugh, and a simple explanation. “I can only do what I do, sing a collection of wonderful songs; new ones, old ones, a few surprises, and there’s a whole new visual going on.
“I’m not going to take my trousers down, not this time, maybe when I get really desperate I will.
When you forget to put your trousers on, maybe that’s the time to pack it in.”
So, Sir Rod will be keeping those Hot Legs under wraps… For now, at least.
Rod Stewart will play Wolverhampton's Molineux Stadium on June 8.
For more information and to buy tickets, click here.