LANDOVER — LANDOVER -- Troubled by a reputation for overt flamboyance and campy career moves ("Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" being the low point), Rod Stewart has frequently used his live shows to prove that he is one of the rock 'n' roll era's premiere showmen.
Last night's appearance at the U.S. Air Arena proved no exception.
After nearly three decades of superstar status, one would think Stewart would have nothing left to prove. Not so.
After a sweat-soaked tear through every phase of his storied repertoire, it was obvious that this vaunted vocalist wouldn't be content resting on his classic rock laurels.
Stewart and company (a sharp seven-piece band backed by an orchestral ensemble) started out in overdrive, opening with a saucy take on "Hot Legs." The near-capacity crowd leapt to its feet and remained that way for most of the night.
Over the next two hours, the blond Briton offered hit after hit. His version of "Havin' a Party" sounded better than it ever did coming out of Sam Cooke, and "Reason to Believe" transcended both recorded versions -- studio and unplugged.
Still, one could argue that audiences expect greatness from Stewart at this point in his career, and the breathtaking, low-key section of the set delivered the anticipated goods.
"Downtown Train," "You're in My Heart," and "Tonight's the Night" caught him in especially fine voice, with the band responding subtly to the master's bluesy phrasing.
In addition to a rousing "Every Picture Tells a Story," other highlights included a sharp reworking of "Handbags & Gladrags," a stirringly soulful "First Cut Is the Deepest," and a raucous over-the-top version of "Maggie Mae" that even left the rock 'n' roller with a grin on his face.
Of course, no performance by Stewart is without its bigger-than-life moments, and this show was no exception in that regard. His poignant rendition of "Forever Young," one of his comeback hits, was superb.
Solid renditions of other rock radio staples, such as "You Wear it Well," found the raspy crooner exploring his earlier work.
In all, Stewart's charm and energy were effusive, and he demonstrated confidence in his achievements both past and present. And most importantly, Stewart verified that he is still a rock 'n' roll force to be reckoned with.