Story & Photographs by Diane Fleischman
The stage was set at The PPL Center for two powerhouse legends Friday Night, opener, Cyndi Lauper, and Sir Rod Stewart. Both performers have played the Lehigh Valley in the last couple of years, and the arena was packed to welcome their return.
Lauper began her set shadowed, elevated above the stage as the band kicked in with “I Drove All Night,” she walked down the ladder steps and covered the stage and crooned the Roy Orbison song. Her hair color may have changed, now white with soft pink highlights, since her last performance in Bethlehem, but her catalog of hits brought the audience to their feet and cheered for more.
She followed with “She Bop,” which included her recorder solo, then “All Through The Night.” With her unmistakable thick New York accent, there was plenty of banter thrown in between the songs, as one would expect. Other iconic hits performed were: “Money Changes Everything,” and the classic ballad, “Time After Time,” while her break-out song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was revamped with a noticeably softer tone. Lauper closed her set with “True Colors,” which she explained the song was inspired by her son.
After a brief intermission, the crowd was ready for Sir Rod Stewart. The stage filled with his full band donned in black and white hounds-tooth jackets, and six female back up singers/dancers who were also incredible string musicians (violin, mandolin, and harp). Sir Stewart entered, stage left, his forever-spiked hair, and his hands held high in the air as he warmly greeted the Allentown fans. He opened with his 1984 hit, “Infatuation,” which set the tone as Sir Stewart dipped his microphone stand back and forth. Next up were “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” and “You Wear it Well.”
Now this production was not in any way familiar to the Rod Stewart concerts back in the 70’s and 80’s. This was a Vegas-styled show, where at 72 years old, Sir Stewart’s jumps and box kicking days are gone, as one would expect. Sir Stewart is still full of energy, and oddly broke into inverted leg exercises as he laid on the stage during “Downtown Train.” His vocals remain strong and powerful full of that raspy sound that we love. The show also highlighted an extra long sax solo, and one of the backup singers took the lead in a Tina Turner song, which allowed Sir Stewart a few costume changes.
Sir Stewart didn’t hold back playing the hits, “Tonight’s The Night,” “Young Hearts,” “Forever Young,” and “Rhythm of My Heart.” Next up was “Maggie May”, the first Rod Stewart song this reporter heard on an AM radio back in 1971. While some artists may play a song differently over the years, it did the song justice to hear it in its original form.
Sir Stewart returned to the stage in a silver glitter jacket and black pants and joined the ladies with their string instruments and two guitarists on acoustic, seated, as they performed “The First Cut is The Deepest,” followed by “You’re In My Heart.” He introduced a song he’s never performed before, “Grace,” a moving ballad about the 1916 Easter rising in Ireland. Sir Stewart carried on the tradition as kicked roughly a dozen soccer balls out into the audience during “Hot Legs,” and the balloons dropped from the ceiling as the show closed with a pumped-up disco version of “Do You Think I’m Sexy.”
As I left the PPL Center, I passed four middle-aged women, all wearing the same yellow tee shirt which read: “Rod Stewart can melt my butter.” A point well taken, Sir Rod Stewart remains in our eyes forever young, melting hearts every time.