ROD Stewart is gearing up for another Australian tour, and has revealed a secret trick he uses on fans while he’s performing on stage and more.
You’re touring Australia with your Hits show next year. How much freedom is there in a tour advertised as Hits?
I wouldn’t say the set list is rigid, I try and put in two or three different songs at the most every night. The other night we were sitting in the dressing room and worked out we could do a whole other show with the songs we don’t play. Which is a wonderful position to be in.
There’s a large handful of songs you’re obliged to play every time you do a show …
Yeah, they want to hear Maggie May, they want to hear Tonight’s the Night, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, Hot Legs, You Wear It Well, you have to play those. But I like to put in a couple of Faces songs sometimes, we were doing Stay With Me and Ooh La La recently. People appreciate that.
Let’s say you’re on stage singing Do Ya Think I’m Sexy for the umpteenth time. Does the fact the crowd love it give you motivation?
That’s very important. The crowd reaction is not the same everywhere. A different crowd every night means you get a different reaction and the songs sound relatively different every time you play them. As much as I love playing Las Vegas it does get a little of a residency feeling after a while, even though you play to a different audience. It’s just because the building and the stage and the dressing room and the times you play are the same every night. It can get a little monotonous.
You’ve been playing Vegas a lot of late. Vegas residencies have certainly changed …
It’s not what it used to be when Elvis played there and people were busy eating their dinner and there was a constant clinking of knives and forks and plates while Elvis was trying to sing. It’s probably the best venue I’ve ever played at in terms of acoustics and there not being a bad seat in the house. It really is a wonderful place.
Do you get to fly home to LA each night after the show?
Absolutely. I leave home at 4.30pm and I’m home at 11pm each night. I get up and see the kids each morning. One is very civilised these days.
You broke a writer’s drought with the album Time. Has that opened the gates?
I’m actually halfway through a new album. I was very encouraged by the success of Time, it was a very long period where I wasn’t writing any songs. It’s encouraged me to take another step forward and come up with more songs and I’m finding it quite easy. The flood gates have been reopened.
Where does Rod Stewart write songs best?
Usually when I’m taken captive on an aeroplane or where I can’t move and I’ve got no other sideshows going on. I find that the best place.
How many Time songs can you get in the new shows?
I know it did pretty well in Australia. We’ll do three songs at least — Brighton Beach, Can’t Stop Me Now and She Makes Me Happy. But it is a struggle. I’ve got a unique method. I’ll say ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to have to put you through the misery of a new song’. In America Time did OK but not as well as it did in other places. So I’ll say ‘Look, just pretend you’re listening to Tonight’s the Night and give it a big round of applause at the end’ and usually they fall for that ploy and they do. It’s hard work selling new songs with the vast catalogue I’ve got that people want to hear. They pay the money and they want to hear what they want to hear. It’s pointless being self-indulgent.
Can you be spontaneous and turn around and ask the band to play a random song?
Not on stage. There’s so many different guitars that have to be used, different tunings. You can’t just turn around and say `Play this’ because the guitar players need to know upfront what we’re going to play.
How long are shows these days?
I can’t remember the longest show I’ve ever done, but the ones now are probably the longest. When I was with the Faces we used to have to play for 43 minutes and that was it. We do just under two hours now, maybe two hours if I’m in a talkative mood.
There’s a teleprompter on stage — how often do you use it?
If we put a new song in the set I’m not familiar with I might put the words up, everybody does that nowadays. My memory is pretty good. When I put the autobiography out I was astounded at how my memory has held up after all the abuse over the years.
Your autobiography was very honest — how was the reaction?
There was no negativity at all, it did remarkably well, it was on the bestsellers list in the US and Great Britain. I think because I was having a good laugh at myself. It was humorous, which I think Pete Townshend and Neil Young’s books weren’t.
You have a milestone birthday in January … 70.
I’m not worried about it at all. Birthdays don’t mean anything to me. My wife’s trying to organise a great big birthday party but I’m trying to get out of it. Birthdays don’t mean so much to guys as they do to women. They come and go and they don’t worry me at all.
Here’s the tiresome question about retirement …
Obviously it’s something that can’t go on forever. But I am booked all the way through 2015. I’m enjoying it at the moment. I’ve got the energy, the voice is in good stead, the people are still coming out to see me which I very much appreciate.
You’re on Twitter. Do you Tweet?
Nah. I don’t get involved in all that. If I want to Twitter something I have someone who does it for me. My wife does Instagrams. I email my kids and my friends and that’s about it. I’ve even given up on my mobile phone because the f—ing thing keeps running out of battery. I was forever plugging it in and recharging it so I don’t bother anymore.
How are you contactable then?
I’m not really. My kids email me but they were the ones who told me to get a phone. So I got a phone and they didn’t bother to call me. They just email me.
As a British soul singer, what do you think of the new breed like Sam Smith?
He’s brilliant. I absolutely love him. He’s really good and for a big fella he’s a good dancer too. I also like John Newman, he’s a great singer too. I like those two, they’re very good.
What’s happening with the Faces reunion?
Well, I imagine when Ronnie (Wood) is done with you down there in October with the Stones hopefully they’ll wind up and that’ll open up a window for the Faces to tour. We’re all in touch with each other.
Do you ever wonder why you haven’t got a Knighthood yet?
I was over the moon to get a CBE (in 2007), that was unexpected. As far as a knighthood goes, if it happens it happens. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it …
Rod Stewart, Rod Laver Arena, March 24. $ 129.70-$ 396.20, Ticketek.
Hanging Rock, March 28. $ 131.10-$ 395.10, Ticketmaster
Rod Stewart, Qantas Credit Union Arena, April 1. $ 131.80-$ 396.40, Ticketek
Rod Stewart, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, April 7. $ 131.80-$ 396.40, Ticketek