I want to deal with the elephant in the room here, right off that bat. In 1983, seven year-old me would have lost his freakin’ mind if you’d told him he was going to see the artist who sang ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’. In real life! And even in 1992, fifteen year-old me had a bit of a soft spot for Rod Stewart’s cover of ‘Rhythm of My Heart’.
But that was a long time ago. I’m 47 now. I like to think I love a wide variety of music. In mid-life there’s no longer any such thing as cool and naff – there’s just stuff I get and stuff I don’t get. But still, do I want to openly admit that this – Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper – is my scene? Well, in all honesty, it was a night of two halves for me. Cyndi – really cool. Rod – I have a few issues…
Right from her opening note, Cyndi Lauper was in fine form. Her voice was magnificent and her stage presence was formidable. She bossed the joint, both in the way she belted out all her hits and chastised the security team for being the fun police – “Mr Security Man, respectfully, what are the rules? Number one, don’t dance in the aisles – it’s a [thick New York accent] foire hazard. Number two, this ain’t a jazz concert.”
She also took the opportunity to lay down some great progressive politics for the benefit of anyone in the audience who needed to hear it – feminism, reproductive rights, women’s health, healthcare in general, LGBTQIA+ inclusion and diversity gave us plenty to contemplate as we digested Lauper’s multitude of timeless political anthems. After all that I was wondering how on earth Rod was going to top it. And the answer was he didn’t.
Not for me at least.
Look, I have absolutely no doubt that Rod Stewart fans had a great time. I know this, at least in part, because I overheard many of them raving about his performance on the way out. So if you were there last night and you loved Rod, that’s great, but maybe stop reading here. My problem might be that this is stuff I don’t get. But after Cyndi I found Rod a bit vapid by comparison.
From opening number, Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’, through to very Aotearoa appropriate ‘Sailing’ at the close, we got a lot of covers, a lot of talented female musicians paraded around like accessories, ‘Rhythm of My Heart’ repurposed as a tribute to Ukraine and Zelensky which was nice enough if a little trite, then a whole lot of stuff about his favourite football team that went on and on ad nauseum.
The high point for me was a four-song acoustic set that culminated in a superb performance of ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’. But after emerging from that feeling uplifted, I was brought back to Earth with a thud courtesy of a slightly nauseating rendition of ‘Lady Marmalade’ from his female backing vocalists… Tacky much?
But brace yourself, I haven’t even got to the worst part. The worst part was a quip from Rod about how he loves Auckland apart from – get this – the “wonky footpaths”. Apparently he almost tripped on his way into Starbucks… Poor poppet. What’s so wrong with an elderly man having a moan about footpaths, I hear you cry? Well, it’s this – I saw myself.
Up until that point in the evening, I had complained about finding a park, a few spits of rain, a slightly chilly breeze, having to walk too far, the restaurant taking too long to cook my dinner, people pushing past my seat while I was trying to listen to the music, it was past my bedtime… And herein lies my real problem with Rod Stewart.