In its 60th-anniversary edition, Playboy magazine offers various laments – worrying essays on such things as the pansification of professional football, the evils of social media and one titled “In Search of the Lost Rock & Roll Icon,” in which Rick Moody wonders: “What the hell happened to music?”
Of course, this kind of hand-wringing is nothing new: Bob Seger reminisced about the “days of old” way back in 1978. Seger was a young curmudgeon, but he had it right, as did the punks. Rock ‘n’ roll began dying in the 1970s, the decade in which kids started listening to the same music that their parents did. The rebelliousness was lost.
What else happened in the 1970s? Rod Stewart went disco. I want to say, “Rod Stewart went disco and never looked back,” but that’s all he does these days – look back. In 2012 he released an autobiography and this year he released Time, an album which marked his return to song-writing. Lyrically, Stewart is sentimental; musically, Time is a survey of his long career’s varying styles.
His concert at Air Canada Centre on Sunday carried that same air of nostalgia. His stage was set up in a clean, mod 1960s’ way, complete with a montage of black-and-white Motown-music imagery for his version of This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You), a hit for the Isley Brothers in 1966 that Stewart covered on his Atlantic Crossing album from 1975.
He followed that with an of-course upbeat version of Sam Cooke’s Having a Party, with scratchy-voiced lines about cokes in the icebox and popcorn on the table.
Things took a creepier turn with Tonight’s the Night, a sexy deflowering song – “don’t say a word my virgin child” – sung by a 68-year-old man. Stewart, a legendary Lothario, crooned disturbingly on a song that he wrote in 1976. He insists his prey “stay away from my window and my back door, too,” and instructs that the telephone line be disconnected and that the blinds be drawn.
It’s all a bit disturbing, really. What would Stewart’s daughter think of her father singing such things?
Well, we could ask Ruby Stewart, the 26-year-old offspring of the Hot Legs-singer and former model Kelly Emberg. Ruby takes after both her parents: She wears it well on the fashion runways and she sings well and sassy too. At ACC, she had one song to herself and also dueted with her dad on Forever Young.
It was a sweet moment, watching a father impart wisdom upon his daughter, but it certainly didn’t have anyone in the crowd feeling spry.
In his Playboy piece, Moody should have but did not include Van Halen in his list of rock iconography. In that band’s most recent tours, Wolfgang Van Halen, the son of guitar god Eddie Van Halen and actress Valerie Bertinelli has been used as the bass player.
Eddie and Bertinelli as a couple back in the day was a very rock ‘n’ roll thing. But, later, Eddie sharing the stage with his young son? That’s not rock ‘n’ roll. Kids need their own music and their own icons. Rock music is fogey stuff. When the Who sang: “hope I die before I get old,” they could have been referring to the music. Rock didn’t die, though, and now we’re watching it age noticeably.
Stewart ended his generous, much-appreciated concert with Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? The singer’s sexiness is a matter of taste – he’s kept himself up well, no denying that. But the rock genre? It is sexy no longer. In answer to Moody’s question, the music got old.