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The American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest is where I go to add classic rock legends to the list of concerts I've seen.
Thursday night I added Sir Rod Stewart to a long list that includes The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Roger Daltrey, Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and others.
Here are five reasons you should have seen Stewart Thursday night in Milwaukee.
1. He’s a legend
From his early Mod days to the great rock and roll records by The Faces and with The Jeff Beck Group to his solid solo records of the mid ‘70s to his chart-topping records of the late ‘70s to his brief forays into disco and the standards songbook, Stewart is among the key figures in the classic rock pantheon. Even if you don’t love everything he’s done, you probably love some of it.
At age 77, Stewart still looks spry and, honestly, the same as he has for years. He's an affable showman, bantering with the audience and kicking soccer balls into the crowd.
2. He's one of rock's great voices
Part of what makes Stewart so special is that his gravelly growl is one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history. Jagger, Joplin, Hendrix, Mercury, McCartney, Lennon, Plant ... Stewart is right up there with them, and he’s managed to successfully blend and caress his instantly recognizable voice into a wide variety of styles.
3. He played the hits
“You Wear It Well,” “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” “Tonight’s the Night,” “You're in My Heart,” “Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?,” “Young Turks,” “Forever Young” ... Stewart wisely played most of his hits, much to the delight of the crowd, which sang along on a few of them.
He also played a lot of covers, as you can see from the setlist below, and his bluesy, emotive reading of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" was one of the highest peaks of the performance.
Although he hasn’t been performing “What Made Milwaukee Famous” on this tour, it’s too bad he didn’t dust it off for Summerfest. Who doesn’t love a good Schlitz reference in a song?
4. Maggie May
Also in the set, of course, was “Maggie May.” After all, Stewart would likely have to fend off riotous fans if he'd skipped his signature 1971 tune. It’s one of those classics I’m glad I’ve gotten to see performed live by its writer. Starting with a minute-long slower take on Thursday, Stewart and his band then kicked it up a notch, creating one of the best moments of the night.
5. Cheap Trick opened
Rockford’s finest – Cheap Trick – opened the show, making it almost a double bill, though, to be fair, it’d be difficult for almost anyone to compete with Sir Rod’s fame and showmanship.
But Cheap Trick has a long and deep history with Milwaukee – Bad Boy’s Xeno was their first lead singer and they played clubs here frequently on their ascent – and it was great to see these (nearly) hometown heroes on the biggest stage at the Big Gig.
Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer cover)
You Wear It Well
Some Guys Have All the Luck
Having a Party (Sam Cooke cover)
It Takes Two (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston cover)
The First Cut Is the Deepest
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
I'd Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Rhythm of My Heart (Marc Jordan cover)
Call Me (Blondie cover)
The Killing of Georgie (Part I and II)
People Get Ready (The Impressions cover)
Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)
You're in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)
Have I Told You Lately (Van Morrison cover)
Hot Stuff (Donna Summer cover)
Stay With Me
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.