Rod Stewart with Special Guests Cyndi Lauper and Jon Stevens: The Hits! Australia Tour, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, March 14th 2023 – Live Review

Have you ever enjoyed a concert from start to finish?

On Tuesday the 14th of March at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, I attended Rod Stewart’s ‘The Hits! Australia Tour’ with Cyndi Lauper and Aussie acclaimed rock singer Jon Stevens as supports. And it was a damn good time indeed.

First up, Jon Stevens provided powerful vocals and sung set which consisted of songs from his time in INXS and Noiseworks. By the end of his brief set, ending with ‘Touch’, which I was surprised that I knew, I wanted to see more. I’m definitely making a mental note to try see him on his own headlining tour in the future.

Next up was Ms Cyndi Lauper. Lauper is iconic in every sense of the word. I have loved her songs and songwriting since I was a kid and she did not disappoint. Sporting a colourful suit jacket and a lilac purple mohawk, Lauper entered the stage through a door in a faux brick wall that had graffiti art of her on it. She was sassy, funny, full of energy, stated it took her a long time to make her stand up, was quirky and very interactive with the crowd.

Affectionately addressing the audience with, “Hello my darlings, how the hell are you?” and “Get up and freakin’ dance!”, it didn’t take long before Lauper had the Melbourne crowd captivated by her charisma, unique style, and talent. She worked the entire stage, was so energetic running around, and it was a joy to watch. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to see a music legend sporting a purple mohawk who can play both the recorder (she shared that she left the trombone at home) and the mountain dulcimer.

Admitting that she hasn’t toured since 2019 and accompanied by a 6-piece band, Lauper revealed her delight for Ke Huy Quan from The Goonies film winning an Oscar for Everything Everywhere All At Once and that “No matter where you come from, you can do it.”. During her 11-track setlist, Lauper dished out songs including ‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colors’, the former which she shared that she first sung to Australian audiences on The Molly Meldrum Show back in the 80s, and the latter transforming into a song of empowerment. With ‘Time After Time’ she encouraged the audience to sing along, creating a beautiful moment. Lauper also surprised me with ‘I Drove All Night’, a song I never realised was hers first before Celine Dion had it, showcasing her strong and impressive vocals.

While The Brains cover ‘Money Changes Everything’ was fantastic to hear live, and I was delighted to hear a little bit of ‘Not My Father’s Son’ which she penned for the musical Kinky Boots (I am obsessed with this musical, it is fantastic and a you must see it if you ever get the chance), her most powerful moment on stage was during ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

Lauper cleverly infused the song with her stance and protest for women’s rights and equality, stating that in her country right now, women’s civil rights are being stripped and that it is creepy that the law is taking authority over the human body. During her performance of this song, shown on the big screen behind her were photos of young girls and women holding with signs that read, “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun-damental Rights”. It was gut wrenching, genius, inspiring, and I loved her for it.

Before I knew it, it was Sir Rod Stewart’s time to shine. After wondering where the screens were for his performance, it was soon revealed that the entire stage was the screen! This impressed and amazed me. It also looked so cool! Accompanied on stage with the best musicians that money can buy, Stewart’s 12-piece band included violinists, a harp player, and a saxophone player. The rock legend playfully addressed the crowd throughout the night, opening with, “Good evening my friends. It’s been a long time and we’re going to fucking enjoy ourselves.” And we did.

I learnt a lot that night as there were many songs Rod Stewart performed that I didn’t realise were covers. And during his 24-song setlist, Stewart promised that the night and show would get better as the concert went on, consistently impressing with his charm, his skills swinging his microphone stand around, his relaxed and cheeky stage presence, his fun juicy stories, his flashy multiple outfits (my favourite being the sparkly black suit), and his phenomenal vocals. He sounds even better live than he does on his records!

All the hits and fantastic covers Stewart has made his own were there including ‘Maggie May’, ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’, ‘Forever Young’, ‘Ooh La La’, ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, and ‘Young Turks’, just to name a few. Rod Stewart even dedicated his song ‘You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)’ to his favourite football team, Scottish premiership cup club, Celtic.

There was an Aussie connection here as Ange Postecoglou, Australian association football manager and former player, is the current manager of the Celtic team and its coach. An image was shown on the big screen of Ange grinning from ear to ear and holding the Scottish League championship cup. The love for the sport was shared again during the song ‘Stay With Me’ when Rod Stewart’s band members threw footballs into the crowd. I expected them to bounce around above the audience members seated on the floor but they never did, with audience members who caught all the footballs choosing to keep them. Actually, I probably would have done the same.

While I loved the upbeat songs including Rod Stewart’s ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, I also enjoyed it when Stewart dialled the mood down to a more chill vibe, performing The Impressions’ tune, ‘People Get Ready’ which I never knew was a civil rights song, and the Van Morrison cover of ‘Have I Told You Lately’ which I’ve only ever known Stewart’s version of and adore.

However, Rod Stewart’s most powerful moments were when he performed ‘The Killing of Georgie’, which tells of the story of a gay man who was killed in New York City, a song which is still as relevant as ever, and ‘Rhythm of My Heart’, a Marc Jordan cover made famous by Stewart that I never realised was an anti-war song. Stewart specifically changed into a blue shirt and yellow jacket for this number and dedicated the song to the fight against “stupid fucking Putin” and the people of Ukraine. During the song, photography was shown of Ukrainian people, soldiers and civilians trying to survive this on-going war, and the current Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Genuinely grateful and bowing after ever song he performed, Rod Stewart shared with the Melbourne audience that he first came to Australia with his group The Faces back in 1973. Stewart bided farewell for the night by ending with the song ‘Sailing’ and stating to the adoring crowd, “Thank-you for indulging me. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Not only was I super impressed by Stewart and Lauper’s music, stage presence, and talents, but I also appreciated how outspoken they both were. Known for their singing voices, they are also using their voices for good. Honest, heartfelt, and inspiring in every way, after witnessing them live on stage and in their element for the very first time, I love them both even more than ever I did before.

When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper.

There’s one more show in Melbourne tonight at Rod Laver Arena.
For more information on the rest of the tour and ticketing, visit:

Photography by Grant Alexander.

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