Friday, March 19, 2004 | 8:23 a.m.
When Rod Stewart underwent throat surgery in 2000, many fans of the British rocker assumed it could mark an end to his storied career.
Instead, it ushered in a new chapter in Stewart's life. The 59-year-old vocalist says the operation to remove a non-cancerous growth from his thyroid actually improved his pitch.
"My voice is a half a step deeper that it was before the operation," Stewart told the Calgary Sun. "I think that gave me a sweetness."
In the years since, Stewart has experienced a resurgence in popularity, sending two albums filled with American standards into the high reaches of the charts.
The first, 2002's double-platinum seller "It Had to Be You ... The Great American Songbook," made it to No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Last year's follow-up, "As Time Goes By ... The Great American Songbook Vol. 2," climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Canadian Album chart.
At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Stewart brings his latest tour -- billed as "From Maggie May to the Great American Songbook" -- to The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel. As the moniker implies, the concert will include Stewart's most famous hits, along with material from his two standards collections.
Amazingly, Stewart, a 1994 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, has never received a Grammy Award. "As Time Goes By ..." was nominated for a 2003 Grammy for best traditional pop vocal album, but that honor went to Tony Bennett and k.d. lang for "A Wonderful World."
"I've been nominated 13 times and 13 times I've lost, so it would be nice to win one ... just so I can show it to my kids," Stewart told the Calgary Sun before this year's ceremony. "They're always going, 'Well, Sting's got 20,000 of them and you haven't got any, Dad. What's wrong with you?' "
In other Stewart news, Rhino Records will reissue a four-disc Faces box set, titled "Five Guys Walk Into a Bar ... " on May 25. Along with Stewart, the Faces' lineup included future Rolling Stones' guitarist Ron Wood and future Who drummer Kenney Jones.
Who: Rod Stewart.
Where: The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Opening act: None.
Personnel: Rod Stewart (vocals), Jeff Golub (guitar), Don Kirkpatrick (guitar), Conrad Korsch (bass), Henry Hey (piano, keyboard), David Palmer (drums), Katja Rieckermann (saxophone), J'Anna Jacoby (mandolin, fiddle), Julie Delgado (vocals), Esther Nicholson (vocals), Natasha Pearce (vocals).
Latest release: "As Time Goes By ... The Great American Songbook Vol. 2" (2003, J-Records).
Album feedback: "It still works as background music for those who buy into the concept, but those die-hard Rod fans who think this entire direction is a mistake for him can use this as proof to why their theory is correct." (All Music Guide, 2 stars).
Essential release: "Every Picture Tells a Story" (1972).
What to expect: Two sets, separated by a 20-minute intermission. Stewart opens with a hit parade, including "You Wear it Well," "Hot Legs" and "Stay With Me," then brings out the standards -- as well as a big band to back him -- for the second segment.
Recent set list: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, Feb. 17: (First Set) "Forever Young," "Young Turks," "Some Guys Have All the Luck," "This Old Heart of Mine," "The First Cut is the Deepest," "Rhythm," "Downtown Train," "Hot Legs," "Proud Mary," "Ohh La La," "You Wear it Well," "Reason to Believe," "You're in My Heart, (The Final Acclaim)" "Stay With Me," "Maggie May." (Second Set) "Someone to Watch Over Me," "As Time Goes By," "I'm in the Mood for Love," "My Heart Stood Still," "Bewitched," "Tonight's the Night," Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," "The Way You Look Tonight," "These Foolish Things," "Pennies From Heaven," "Maggie May," "It Takes Two," "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (Encore) "We're Having a Party," "I'll Be Seeing You." (www.comcast-spectator.com)
Tour feedback: "Though the legendary rocker is 59, Stewart still has the physique, finesse and flamboyance of someone half his age." (Omaha World-Herald); "After a 20-minute intermission ... Roderick the Crooner, decked out in full white tie and tails, emerged from a 1940s-style big band bandstand amid a 16-piece orchestra. Looking painfully uncomfortable in the garb ... Stewart awkwardly navigated 'The Way You Look Tonight,' 'As Time Goes By,' 'I'm in the Mood for Love' and a few other standards while much of the crowd broke into conversations and made cell phone calls." (Chicago Sun-Times).
Previous Las Vegas appearances: Nov. 3, 1984, Nov. 7, 1984; Aug. 6, 1993, Jan. 26, 1996, Sept. 5, 1998 (MGM), Dec. 31, 1999 (Rio).
Says Stewart: "I don't consider myself sexy at all. I see myself first thing in the morning as pretty gruesome." (Rolling Stone, October 2003)