[Rod Stewart] and an extremely tight and accomplished 11-man backing ensemble put a layer of polish on those roots, but the feeling was there. Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller," long a staple of Stewart's repertoire, hit with a clean punch early in the 1-hour, 45-minute set. Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away," another Stewart signature tune, turned up as the encore, embellished with a delicious a cappella doo-wop break featuring the 46-year-old star and backup singers Darryl Phinnessee and Dorian Holley.
After good versions of "You're in My Heart" and "The First Cut Is the Deepest," Stewart again went back to first principles with a bracing stomp through a 1940s-vintage Muddy Waters blues. In the course of the song, Stewart proved that he can move better while seated than most rockers can standing up. Toward the end of the Waters number, he strolled like a Mardi Gras reveler while two members of his three-piece horn section blew brightly colored solos.
Stewart noted that this month marks the 20th anniversary of "Every Picture Tells a Story," the classic album that made him a star (in what must be the proudest boast of all for a certain type of middle-aged man, Stewart also noted that his wife, model Rachel Hunter, was 1 year old when the album came out). By firmly grasping the anchors that inspired him two decades ago, Stewart could be reversing his long drift toward Las Vegas, and steadying himself to write a happier ending to his story.