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music: concert review

Rod Stewart (left) and Stevie Nicks perform at Madison Square Garden in New York City last week.Cory Schwartz/Getty Images

Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks At Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday

'Young hearts be free tonight, time is on your side." Remember when that was the case? Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks do, and so does their audience - an ebullient crush of middle-agers at Air Canada Centre who probably remember themselves as the young Turks about whom the superstar singers sang, their eyes clouding faster with joyful tears than with cataracts.

As far as time being on their side, those who believe that youth is wasted on the young would contend that the years which are spent are worth much more than any ones of promise held in the bank.

A published review of an earlier stop on the Heart and Soul Tour (which played in Montreal on Friday) began with: "Can two rockers in their 60s boogie like stars half their age?" Which, of course, is an unreasonable question. Half their age? There is no such thing, not in today's pop world. The stars who boogie are either 16 or 60, with nothing in between.

And so Rod Stewart competes with no one, except perhaps an earlier version of himself. His concert, which began with a cover of the O'Jays disco choo-chooing Love Train, found the sexy sexagenarian in a nostalgic place, absolutely. He initially sported a jacket that was as brashly gold as the hits he rolled out. His hide was the deepest shade of George Hamilton, and his unnaturally blonde cockatoo hair was spikier than a railroad.

( Love Train, featured on Stewart's Soulbook covers album from 2009, was recently used for a television commercial promoting Coors Light, a beverage which commands a hefty price at ACC, a Molson house. For the price of a jumbo plastic tumbler full of suds today, a trunk-load of stubbies could have been bought in the early 1970s.) On a sleek, retro-white, double-platformed stage, the Rod who was once mod was in fine form, charismatic (but not overly chatty) and vocally up to his raspy par. "Good evening my friends," he greeted, after an anthemic singalong about "ain't nobody gonna stop us now" seduction. "It's Saturday night," he continued. "We're going to have a good night."

What followed was Sam Cooke's Havin' a Party - you were expecting Another Saturday Night? - complete with a saxophone solo by a short-skirted blonde woman. Fluent in disco, soulful ballads, retro-radio fun and chummy pub pop, Stewart's band and singers were crack. Occasional searing, silvery guitar solos, out of fashion nowadays, were presented ever earnestly.

Stevie Nicks popped on stage for a so-so Studio 54 duet with Stewart on Passion, but was better with the agreeably jitter of Young Turks. Earlier the monotoned Fleetwood Mac diva had opened the show strongly, offering familiar material such as Stand Back, a reflective Landslide and a chugging Edge of Seventeen, while introducing new material from an album to come. The closing Love Is, which she introduced as the "third ballad of my life," was done in a poignant Southern style of piano song.

The 11-song set from the gold-shawl woman included the dreamy rocker Rhiannon, with its lines about a goddess ("And wouldn't you love to love her?") resonating, you have to think, among the male half of the audience.

Nicks departed from the love train, leaving Stewart to roll through recognizable terrain: Some Guys Have All the Luck, Cat Stevens's The First Cut is the Deepest, Tom Waits's Downtown Train, Forever Young, Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Rock and Roller, Maggie May, You're in My Heart (with a video salute to Stewart's beloved Celtic United football club) and the snazzily rocking Hot Legs, which had Stewart kicking soccer balls to the arena's upper deck.

The disco-balled Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? was the lone encore, as well as an appropriate question. Long-time partners leaving the arena had something to think about: They got each other, neither one's complaining.

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