Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rod Stewart & Faces & Keith Richards (1977)

          Classic-rock nerds love nothing more than charting the intricate histories of important bands, and in fact British music journalist Pete Frame found notoriety by creating elaborate hand-drawn outlines called “family trees” that are now considered both collectibles and reference material. Need to know who played bass in Rainbow while Ronnie James Dio was the front man? Pete Frame’s “family tree” for Deep Purple, the group of which Rainbow is a splinter, can answer your question. Consider the preceding a roundabout way of explaining why the minor British concert movie Rod Stewart & Faces & Keith Richards is of passing interest, even though the performance captured within the movie is mediocre, with excellent musicians delivering merely adequate work against a tacky backdrop of potted plants. Sometimes marketed as Rod Stewart & Faces—The Final Concert, the movie does indeed depict an ending of sorts, but that's where the whole business of “family trees” enters the discussion.
          In 1969, several members of British Invasion group Small Faces formed a spinoff band called Faces, recruiting singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood from the Jeff Beck Group. Yet Stewart had already begun his solo career, so the seeds of Faces’ destruction were planted. Membership realigned during the band’s short run, so by the time this concert was filmed—capping the 1974 tour that marked Stewart’s swan song before going solo full-time—the version of Faces onstage was not the same one that emerged in 1969. The addition of guest guitarist Keith Richards during several numbers makes things even more confusing, because Rod Stewart & Faces & Keith Richards plays like a Rod Stewart concert with noteworthy supporting musicians.
          Therefore, the only real significance of the piece stems from the fact that Stewart didn’t play with Faces drummer Kenney Jones (who later spent years in The Who) and Wood (who subsequently joined Richards in the Rolling Stones) until a short reunion set in 2015. Again, it’s the whole “family tree” thing. For music geeks, these milestones are endlessly fascinating. For others, not so much.
          The same is true of the movie itself. Stewart is in fine voice, though his stage antics are lazy and silly. He spends a fair amount of time with his back to the audience, shimmying in his bright yellow pants to display his posterior, and when he closes the show with solo hits “Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well,” he mostly guides the audience through sing-alongs. Stewart also indulges his lifelong passion for Sam Cooke by covering  “Having a Party,” “Twisting the Night Away,” and “You Send Me.” (During one of these numbers, Stewart instructs the string section—yes, Faces hired a string section—to vamp on the chorus for what seems like an endless period of time.) In the film’s most exciting sequences, Faces coalesce into a tight blues/rock combo, grinding through “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “I Used to love Her,” “Sweet Little Rock and Roller,” and the like with aplomb. But does any of it feel essential? Not even close.

Rod Stewart & Faces & Keith Richards: FUNKY


Dale said...

True,it was all over by the time of this show. Rod was eclipsing the band,Wood was tired of Rod and perhaps most of all,Ronnie Lane had left to make his brilliant,ignored solo work with Slim Chance.
I am a rock nerd and family tree climber.

Coyote Cosmonaut said...

Only one member left during the band's run - Ronnie Lane, who departed in 1973 and was replaced by Tetsu Yamauchi. Jesse Ed Davis was then added on rhythm guitar for the band's final US tour in 1975.