x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Singalong with a twist

Rod Stewart whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a medley of much-loved hits during his Dubai concert,

Rod Stewart performing in Dubai on Friday.
Rod Stewart performing in Dubai on Friday.

Every picture tells a story, or so the song goes. The picture I saw at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai on Friday night told me that in more than 40 years, Rod Stewart hasn't really changed that much. OK, he's grown older - he is 65 - meaning his stamina isn't what it was, but his songs linger. They certainly lingered on at the Sevens because the packed audience sang every word of every song with him. He did throw in one or two from his latest album, Soulbook. But mainly it was, like the man himself, golden oldies.

Stewart was on stage for only about an hour and a quarter - far shorter than his supporting act, Spandau Ballet - who, by the way, were superb and had brought everyone to a frenzy before Stewart took to the stage. The non-forgiving camera, when it was on his face, took no prisoners. On a warm night Stewart looked unprepared for the UAE climate. He was sweating profusely and puffing his cheeks after just two songs and took three breaks to change clothes, leaving his band to keep everyone amused as he did so.

But when he did sing, he and his fans had a good time. They were all there in the set - Maggie May, First Cut Is the Deepest, I Don't Want To Talk About It, I Was Only Joking, Sailing. There were times - quite a few of them actually - when it was hard to hear what the man himself was singing, so loud was the crowd. One could sense, at times, that Stewart was starting to get slightly peeved at this. During many of his songs he appeared to give up and just let the crowd get on with it. "That's new to me, I've never heard the audience sing that one before," said Stewart after Do You Think I'm Sexy? - including the instrumental bits - was belted out by a throbbing mass of middle-aged men and women.

He performed one very oldie, Twisting the Night Away, and this is where the picture did tell a different story. Twisting away in the crowd were, to my astonishment, a couple of children. I had gone to the concert determined to find some young people in the audience: surely after more than 40 years as a solo singer he has picked up some new fans along the way. I was beginning to think it would be a fruitless search until I spotted Jane Harvey, seven, and her 10-year-old sister Linda.

They were weaned on Rod, according to their mother Sarah, from Dubai, so knew every song in his repertoire. But the twist? Yes, there they were, along with all the fans who could remember it the first time round, twisting away. "He's great," said Linda. "All my friends think I am silly to like my mum's type of music but it makes you want to dance, doesn't it." Linda and Jane were even joining in with the singing, arms waving as they did so, while mum proudly took pictures of them, a whole new generation of Rod fans for when he reaches his 70s.

If he is still performing then - and don't write the possibility off as it is not far away - he will have to think of a new way to end his show. Friday was, quite frankly, bizarre. For their encore Spandau Ballet came back to play their two best-known and best-loved songs, True and Gold, and everybody was grateful - yes even Jane and Linda who, it appears, were also weaned on Spandau Ballet - so when it came to the point where Rod and his band all walked off stage at 10.30 his fans, quite reasonably, hung around expecting him to reappear if only for a number or two. But no. There on the big screen at the back of the stage for all to see was: "Mr Stewart has left the building." No encore, no bow, not even a "Good night Dubai, you were great."

Perhaps that was what the problem was. Perhaps Dubai was great. Perhaps Rod the Mod had actually been outsung by his fans. Thinking about it though, he may have hit on something. When he does reach 70, or even 80, he could still earn money by just standing on the stage and conducting the audience, let them do all the singing. But first he will have to attract more Janes and Lindas and get them to bring their friends because his current fans will be too old to help him out - either that or they will have forgotten the words they were belting out on Friday night.