For Rod Stewart, time is always on his side


Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood. 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $19.50-$153.50. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

Rod Stewart usually can be counted on for a couple of things in concert: To be rakishly charming at all times and to deliver a solid array of hits in that distinctive rasp that makes today’s Top 40 kids sound like meerkats by comparison.

This spring, he released “Time,” his first album of original material in more than a decade — no doubt his “American Songbook” collection had its fans, but even Stewart tired of the classics after a point — and returned to the charts with the giddy rocker “She Makes Me Happy.”

If recent set lists from the European leg of his tour hold, that is one of a couple of new songs Stewart is tucking into his hits-stuffed shows (the U.S. run launched Thursday). Fans who head to Philips Arena to see him on Saturday, with fellow rock vet Steve Winwood opening, can expect a musical time capsule ranging from “Maggie May” to “Rhythm of My Heart” to his beloved Motown covers.

Earlier this fall, Stewart, still cheeky at 68, called from Los Angeles to talk about the tour, the effect his amusing book, “Rod: The Autobiography,” had on his songwriting, and memories of the Gold Club.

Q: What made this the right time to return to writing and recording original songs?

A: I hadn't written a song for 13 years. I'd done the "American Songbook" (albums) and the Christmas album and I was running out of options. ("Time") was inspired when we started writing the book — it inspired so many memories.

Q: How much of the set will be dedicated to the new songs and what can we expect, production-wise?

A: It's always a big show, though I don't have Celine Dion with water and the front of the Titanic (as in her Las Vegas show). We rely on the music. It's a glamorous stage with high-tech video work. We'll probably do four or five songs from the new album, maybe three. People always want to hear the songs they know and they're quite right. If Sam Cooke was alive, I'd want to hear all the old stuff. It's a big band — 14 people. My daughter, Ruby, might be coming out. All the girls take part in a drum solo dressed in leopard print — it's very Rod Stewart. And we'll do about five acoustic songs.

Q: What’s the format with Steve Winwood? Are you performing together at all like you did with Stevie Nicks?

A: I can't imagine so. I don't think we really have enough time. The last time we were onstage was the Reading Jazz Festival in 1965. He came up with Eric Burdon.

Q: Whose idea was it to tour together?

A: Nowadays you need a good support act. Tickets don't sell as they did years ago and the more glamorous you can make the bill, the better. We've both been around the same block.

Q: And you’re still kicking your soccer balls, right?

A: Oh, yes, 40 of them every night.

Q: From reading your autobiography and also some stories about the Faces, it seems as if Atlanta was one of those cities that brought out the naughty side of you and the band.

A: (Laughs) We used to fly in and go to the (now shuttered) Gold Club. Sometimes we never did encores if it got us there faster.

Q: I would guess that backstage is a bit of a different scene now.

A: My days of that are thankfully behind me. It seemed OK at the time, so frivolous and silly. We used to get so abused by hotels, and they didn't want us there. We actually got banned by the Holiday Inn!

Q: Will your boys (Alastair, 8, and Aiden, 2) come on the road with you?

A: No, they won't, they're all in school. (Wife) Penny (Lancaster) will come out. I do about nine shows and take a break. I can't do those tours for five months straight anymore.

Q: Does it bug you to be onstage and see so many people filming the concert on their cameras rather than paying attention to what you’re presenting at the moment?

A: It doesn't worry me at all. I encourage it, especially in Vegas. Some of the people who perform there have people thrown out. I do the opposite — I encourage people to come down to the stage.

Q: You’ve extended your Vegas run for two more years, so I guess it must be going well?

A: It really is. I'm astonished, because we just play our music and get on with it. It's a happy show, it's a happy band, that's why we're always smiling for two hours. It's contagious. People leave with smiles and footballs. It's intimate and you can tell stories for the audience and there isn't a bad seat in the house. It honestly is better than playing arenas.

Q: What’s the latest with you and Jeff Beck?

A: Jeff and I … we tried to make a blues album together, but we couldn't see eye to eye. But there's more chance of the Faces touring. If the (Rolling) Stones would ever bloody finish, there would be a window of opportunity for the Faces.

Q: This tour ends in December. What’s next on the planner?

A: We're going to make a new album, either originals or a country album. I've covered a lot of country songs, and songs like "You're in My Heart" are very country oriented. It would be interesting to do it.