Rod Stewart, at the ripe old age of 43 in 1988, landed a hit with the wistful “Forever Young,” a sweet love letter to his kids.

More than three decades later, Stewart is still touring, battling the relentless, ruthless force of mortality with a wink and a nod. Now 77, he may not be forever young but as his performance at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta Wednesday night proved, he is forever joyful about his place in rock history.

He can still do that signature Stewart strut. His spiky hair still mocks gravity. His outfits would still get him in the VIP room at Studio 54. And he happily kicked around soccer balls thrown at him during “Hot Legs.”

Stewart, who has talked about this being his last rock tour, also ensured that the entire show was a Vegas-level sensory feast on multiple levels. The video screens surrounding the stage showed multiple images of Stewart and his band so even a sight-impaired person on the lawn could track what’s going on. The sound system was impeccable.

And he brought on a dozen musicians who were able to give every song additional oomph. Half of them were women, and he had them dressed in matching outfits straight out of a Robert Palmer video. (In fact, he aped the classic “Addicted to Love” video to open the show.) Politically correct in 2022? Not even close.

But the women were also consummate musicians, highlighted by an energetic Irish interlude during “Forever Young” and a bit of “West Side Story” panache in the middle of “Young Turks.” The women also provided Stewart time to take a breath and change outfits by performing Blondie’s “Call Me” and Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” in his stead.

The set list was curated to ensure maximum familiarity. There were no deep cuts for the hardcore fans. And he skipped over many of his big hits (”Infatuation,” “Passion,” “Downtown Train,” “This Old Heart of Mine”) for covers, though they were mostly covers he’s previously recorded. For instance, he did a spirited version of “It Takes Two,” a 1966 Marvin Gaye/Kim Weston duet he did with Tina Turner in 1990 and a solemn “People Get Ready,” the Impressions song he covered with Jeff Beck in 1985 that featured images of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights legends behind him.

Stewart was very much in control of the proceedings. During “Maggie May,” when a mic went out, he joked that he might have to give everyone a refund, then had the band go back to the start of the guitar solo. He also got annoyed when a fan was whipping air too hard in his face. “I feel like I’m in a Bee Gees video!” he cracked. A tech person fixed that pronto.

When he sat down for an acoustic mini-set, a common type of segment for many acts, he said, with a sardonic edge: “It’s not because I’m tired like some critics say.” Then he insulted said critics with a one-word epithet.

Credit: RODNEY HO/rhO@aj

Credit: RODNEY HO/rhO@aj

His raspy vocals are not where they were in 1978, but he could still pick his shots and find depth and gravitas in songs like “I’d Rather Go Blind” and a heartfelt “Have I Told You Lately.”

And the crowd pleaser that he is, he had no qualms letting the audience sing the choruses of many of his classic hits like “You’re In My Heart” and “Tonight’s the Night.”

Near the end, he also dug up a funny Atlanta anecdote.

“In the early ‘90s, I used to go to the Gold Club,” noted Stewart, referencing the infamous former strip club at Piedmont and Lindbergh that was shut down in 2001 after the owners took a plea deal on federal racketeering charges. He opined about a favorite stripper who was 6-foot-2 and named Jeannie. “Please call me!” he said.

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cheap Trick, a fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who opened for Stewart, still has that rock and roll spark, led by creator and guitarist Rick Nielsen and two other key members from the band’s heyday: bassist Tom Peterssen and lead singer Robin Zander.

The Illinois band attacked its hour-long set with confidence and energy befitting a group that has spent thousands of hours on stage and a deep enough catalog to play a vastly different array of songs from its last visit to Ameris in 2019. And in case you didn’t know who was on stage, their classic logo was embossed on the screen behind them the entire time. Zander also wore a shirt with the band’s name on it.

Zander, now 69, may have lost a bit of vocal suppleness singing the band’s lone No. 1 hit, the emotive ballad “The Flame,” but he could still bring the fire to songs like “Southern Girls” and “Ain’t That a Shame.”

And the crowd ate up the three songs that have become staples on classic rock radio: “Dream Police,” “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” None of the three songs were pop hits when first released to radio in the late 1970s, a period of disco dominance. It took a release of a livelier live version of “I Want You to Want Me” in 1979 to find an audience stateside, giving the band its first top 10 hit. (It was recorded in Japan, where the band had already broken out big, a plot twist that was evoked in the mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap” five years later.)

Zander also brought on his talented son Robin Taylor Zander as a guitarist and back-up vocalist, giving him a chance to sing lead on “So Good to See You.” (His daughter Holland later came on to sing back-up vocals on “Surrender.”)

Nielsen, 73, carted out a different custom-made guitar for every song, one with the Beatles imprinted on it, and closed out the one-hour set with his legendary five-neck guitar for “Goodnight.”

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc