On paper, this show looked like a mismatch. But if you go by the numbers (and eras), it made perfect sense.
Rod Stewart returned to Kansas City on Thursday night, and the jet-setting British rocker brought with him one of the more respected and decorated figures in Latin-American music, Carlos Santana. It made for a lively journey in classic rock.
Santana opened the evening with a 75-minute set that included several of his best-known hits. Three of them came early: “Everybody’s Everything,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.”
His band included six backup singers and a three-piece percussion section, an ensemble that aroused a big, joyous groove. Many in the crowd of about 9,000 were there to see Santana as much as Stewart; the arena was about as full as it would get during his set. Most were on their feet, dancing, the whole time.
There were plenty of instrumental forays, especially from Santana, who decades ago forged a guitar sound that is unmistakably his own.
Stewart would say later that Santana was not feeling well this evening, but it didn’t show during his opening set. Other highlights: the cover of thte Champs’ “Tequila” and “Smooth,” Santana’s Grammy-winning collaboration with Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty.
The set ended oddly but satisfyingly: with one of Santana’s guitarists singing “Roxanne” by the Police.
Stewart took the stage dressed in a sparkly aqua dinner jacket, and still bears that thick shaggy mane of hair.
He opened with “Infatuation,” then his well-known cover of Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party.” From there, he turned to one of his own classics, “You Wear It Well,” and followed that with a cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Heartache.” Given how much of his own material he left off the setlist, that one could have been replaced without detracting from the show.
After that, Santana joined Stewart on stage for a cover of “I'd Rather Go Blind,” a song made famous by Etta James.
Stewart was supported by a large ensemble that included a five-piece band, three-singers and a three-piece horn section.
For several songs, he enlisted a string section comprising seven local musicians. He left the stage a few times for wardrobe changes; during one of those, one of his singers capably performed “Proud Mary.”
The stage featured a six video screens aligned along a larger, towering video screen. Throughout the set, the broadcast archival images or videos of Stewart, including one of him playing soccer as a young adult. A few of the graphics that bounced about the screen were almost comically primitive.
For a guy who has been touring as long and as much as he has, Stewart, who will turn 70 in January, can still sing well enough.
He can give a soccer ball a heavy boot, too, which he did more than a dozen times, launching them into the crowd as he sang “Hot Legs.”
Other highlights included “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” “You’re In My Heart” and “Maggie May.” He gave the crowd a chance to start that one off, and the response was loud and emphatic. Like Stewart, that song has aged gracefully.
The night ended with a hailstorm of balloons and with Stewart singing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” a song that has developed a novel charm over the decades.
Stewart sings it mostly tongue-in-cheek these days, although it’s evident that a lot of people think he’s still well worth looking at. And listening to.
Infatuation; Having a Party; You Wear It Well; It’s a Heartache; I’d Rather Go Blind; Stay With Me; Rhythm of My Heart; Tonight’s the Night; Forever Young; The First Cut is the Deepest; Have I Told You Lately; Brighton Beach; Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller; Proud Mary; You’re In My Heart; Hot Legs; Maggie May. Encore: Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?