Two women strutted down the amphitheater aisle in shaggy blonde wigs before Rod Stewart’s headlining set at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday night, in homage to the British singer’s rooster-like do. The soulful rocker is in the middle of a five-week tour with ’80s icon Cyndi Lauper, with whom he shares a lively fashion sense and an iconic spiky hairstyle.
The two stars are also quintessential show-people, and they put on one of the best shows of the summer — a rollicking double-bill that thrilled the packed crowd.
Aside from his somewhat diminished vocal range — in part a result of surgery he underwent in 2000 — the raspy-voiced 72-year-old showed few signs of his age, and Stewart’s charisma as a performer transcended the vocal limitations.
During a 21-song set that drew from his greatest hits, he swaggered across the stage in a gold tuxedo jacket during “Some Guys Have All the Luck,” executed jumping jacks during the sing-along “Maggie May,” and kicked around soccer balls during the set-closing “Stay with Me” from his days with the rock band Faces.
Part of the success of Stewart’s show had to do with its top-notch stage craft and the quality of his band and backup singers — a crew of consummate pros dressed in checkered jackets (the men) and red Celtic skirts (the women) who truly looked like they were having a ball as they backed Stewart on classic ‘70s and ‘80s hits like “Infatuation,” “Forever Young,” “Tonight’s the Night” and “You Wear It Well.”
A video of Stewart being knighted by Prince William in 2016 played on the backdrop during the Celtic-flavored “Rhythm of My Heart,” a mid-set highlight followed by Stewart’s Grammy-winning tune “Young Turks” and his heartfelt Tom Waits cover, “Downtown Train.”
After this tour, Stewart returns to his long-running Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace. A series of acoustic tunes — for which the singer donned a satin lavender suit — had a bit of that Vegas crooner feel. He and his band sat on chairs along the stage for “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” “Ooh La La,” “Reason to Believe” and massive sing-along “You’re in My Heart.”
Stewart exuded sexy vulnerability and genuine feeling on Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately,” and encored with a goofily fun version of ‘70s disco hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
Shortly into her 11-song opening set, ‘80s synth-pop star Lauper pulled off a long powder-blue wig to reveal her trademark hot-pink hair. She had come out onstage in black and white striped pants and a black top-hat for Wanda Jackson’s haunting rockabilly tune “Funnel of Love.” The song appears on Lauper’s Nashville-recorded 2016 album “Detour,” from which she also showcased Skeeter Davis tune “The End of the World.”
But the crowd truly thrilled to the ’80s hits: quirky new wave song “She Bop,” beautiful ballad “Time After Time,” LGBT anthem “True Colors” and smash “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun[damental rights],” which became a women’s empowerment theme after the Women’s Marches of January 2017.
Later, Lauper appeared onstage with Stewart during his headlining performance to duet on the Isley Brothers love song, “This Old Heart of Mine,” fulfilling a bucket-list accomplishment to tour with one of her idols, she said.