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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Stewart reconnects with pals

September 01, 2004|Richard Cromelin | Times Staff Writer

The first song Rod Stewart sang in his concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday was his 1988 benediction "Forever Young," and it wasn't long before he was acting out the title's sentiment.

Adding an extra kick to the final date of his tour, Stewart spent a good chunk of the three-hour concert teamed up with Ron Wood.

The longtime Rolling Stones guitarist had been at his side in the Faces in the early '70s as Stewart emerged from British blues-rock obscurity into his brief, incandescent period of creativity with his first solo albums, before easing into his era of mass stardom and inconsistent records.

Monday's rare reunion was as much about sentiment as music, which made perfect sense -- the Faces weren't a brilliant musical force, but their sloppy, rollicking playing and ebullient personality captured the irreverence and joy of rock 'n' roll as well as any band ever has.

That camaraderie was the heart of Monday's show-within-a-show, and it intensified when a third Face, Ian McLagan, sat in briefly on keyboards. Anyone who was drawn to the Bowl by Wood's billing must have been pleased by the generosity of their segments (one early in the show and one at the end) and the unforced spirit they generated. They weren't trying to imitate their younger selves, but their chemistry was immediate and embracing, starting with Stewart's introduction of "my best mate and my younger brother."

But let's not get totally teary-eyed. The music does matter, and Wood's presence seemed to inspire an unusual level of focus and freedom in his partner, whose main flaw as a performer is his tendency to give even his best material superficial readings.

Emphasizing songs from Stewart's early solo albums that featured Wood, they made "Every Picture Tells a Story" as epic and intimate as it deserves to be. "I'm Losing You" packed a powerful punch, and "Maggie May" soared on its volatile mix of youthful emotions.

But the sweetest moment was a small, offhand gesture. Standing at the microphone as Wood played the intro to the old R&B ballad "I'd Rather Go Blind," Stewart reached over and lightly touched his friend's arm. He seemed to hold on for just a moment, as if drawing comfort from the contact, and then he started singing.

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