SARATOGA SPRINGS – A number of fake Confederate States of America bills were discovered at the Saratoga Springs Public Library recently. An unknown quantity were found wedged inside of books shelved in the library’s section of literature related to the Holocaust, according to a library employee.
The “bills” share a general similarity with the original 500-dollar notes in style and imaging - including a profile of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The new “bills” were amended to include passages from the Bible and multiple images of the Star of David.
“It’s disheartening to see this going on in our community,” said city Police Lt. Bob Jillson.
The materials were reported to police on Aug. 16 and the incident logged as “unknown subject placed anti-Semitic literature into books at library.”
The local incident immediately followed a weekend during which some white nationalists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia and chanted Nazi slogans to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. That weekend concluded with one alleged Nazi sympathizer being accused of driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring several others who opposed the rally.
Local authorities said there aren’t any leads regarding the placement of the phony bills into the books, and that the event seems to be an isolated incident.
“This is one more message of hate that is very unfortunate,” said Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “Our city is an inclusive and welcoming city and there is no place for any anti-Semitic action or words in Saratoga Springs.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - During a targeted enforcement operation, deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested “eight unlawfully present adults” on Sept. 11 in Saratoga Springs, according to a statement issued by the federal agency.
The eight men, all citizens of Mexico, are between the ages of 20 and 49, and allegedly face administrative immigration violations. One of the men is suspected of illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously removed, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
Those arrested will be held in ICE custody at the Albany County Correctional Facility, pending transfer to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.
The agency also issued the following statement: “All recent enforcement operations in this region are a part of routine, daily targeted operations conducted by ICE here around the country every day, targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators. These efforts will continue.”
Deportation officers with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations reported arresting 26 men in Saratoga Springs in May and June.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Thin and delicate and with a flurry of leaves wrapped around its crown, a baby tree was planted this week at High Rock Park. A symbol of hope and resiliency, its fast-growing branches are expected to sprout a profusion of white five-petal flowers and rise to a height of 30 feet.
“I think it’s an appropriate addition to this site,” said Department of Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, standing in the morning shadow cast by the five twisted and sculpted pieces of World Trade Center steel nearby. “It’s a living memorial of a tragedy. A survivor tree. It shows the resilience of the American people.”
The tree planted in Saratoga Springs was grown from a seedling of a Callery pear tree which stands in Lower Manhattan and became known as the "Survivor Tree" after enduring the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. It was the last living thing recovered from Ground Zero.
Severely damaged with snapped roots and burned and broken branches, the original tree was removed from the rubble of Ground Zero, cared for and nurtured by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and re-planted near the memorial pool that occupies the footprint of the South Tower.
In 2013, a 9/11 Survivor Tree Seedling program was launched to distribute seedlings to communities that site a 9/11 memorial – such as Saratoga Springs - or communities which have endured tragedy in recent years, such as Newtown, Connecticut - in memory of the 26-people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Madrid, Spain, in memory of the 190 people killed in coordinated terror bombings against that city’s commuter train system.
The baby trees are individually numbered and overseen by the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Foundation. The one in High Rock is tagged as number 345 and represents the latest addition in what the DPW calls Saratoga Springs’ 9/11 Memorial Park, in High Rock Park.
The city’s annual remembrance ceremony, hosted by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, will be staged at the park at 8:30 a.m. on Monday. A moment of silence will be observed at 8:46 a.m. to symbolize the time when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The Tempered by Memory sculpture, which stands 25 feet tall, was created by artists Noah Savett and John Van Alstine and is comprised of five metal pieces from the World Trade Center. Four of the pieces came from the North Tower - distinguished by the antenna on its roof - and one steel beam came from the South Tower. Saratoga Arts commissioned the sculpture. Much public debate followed regarding the placement of the sculpture. Locations in front of the Saratoga Springs City Center, and at the Visitors Center were considered. The sculpture was eventually placed at High Rock Park in 2012.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – An iconic Broadway hotel that harkens back to Saratoga Springs’ grand Victorian Era appears finally ready to reopen following an extensive five-year renovation and a project cost of approximately $30 million.
“We feel this is a process and a labor love and we needed to take as long as it needed to take to make it as perfect as possible. That perfection means detailed craftmanship with every cut, every tile and every piece hand-laid and hand-measured,” said Adelphi Hotel COO Michel Ducamp.
“To do anything less would have been a discredit to the city of Saratoga Springs and to the building – which deserves to be renovated completely and thoroughly with no-holds barred and no corners cut,” said Ducamp, standing on Broadway in front of the hotel in the gleam of an afternoon sun that illuminated the copper face of the hotel’s street-side bar named after Saratoga legend John Morrissey. The one-time world heavyweight champion, congressman, and founder of Saratoga’s thoroughbred race course died of pneumonia at the hotel a year after it opened, and was laid in state in the second-floor parlor that opened onto the piazza.
The Adelphi first opened in 1877. More recently, it was purchased for $4.5 million by RBC Hotels - a hotel management company owned by Richbell Capital LLC- and closed following the summer 2012 season for what was anticipated to be an 18-month renovation. As construction got underway, however, it became apparent that extensive reconstruction would be required.
“With a building its age, one never knows what one may find,” Ducamp said. Richbell Capital and Blue Skies Forever subsequently partnered to create a new luxury hospitality company called The Adelphi Hospitality Group, and additional properties located on Washington Street just west of Broadway and adjacent to the Adelphi were purchased. A plan presented to the city this week calls for an additional six-story hotel and spa with an indoor swimming pool and 50 rooms to be developed adjacent to the Adelphi on the Washington Street side, near UPH. It will be connected in name to the Adelphi as well as physically connected as part of the expanding complex.
“Were trying to create, especially on the room side, a luxury hotel that is so special and different that we’ll be attracting people from New York, from Boston, from Montreal. We’re not competing with our sister hotels in town,” Ducamp said. “We’re bringing more people to Saratoga Springs who will not only stay in our hotel and dine with us, but will go out to the street. They’ll want to clothes shopping, they’ll want to go to SPAC, to the races, and to the shops.“
Inside there is an “old/new” conception that boasts custom designed lobby chandeliers, entryway glass, and restored antiques refurbished in modern fabrics.
“Unfortunately, we pretty much had to gut the building because it was pretty dilapidated. We couldn’t keep very much of it, but we kept what we could. We wanted to keep the Victorian grandeur and at the same time make it appropriate for the 21st century,” Ducamp said. “We did keep the staircase. That is all original and it is spectacular. It was made of American walnut from 1877 from the forest outside of Saratoga Springs.”
The hotel stands four stories tall, the uppermost three floors with 11 rooms each, of which four are suites. There are 32 rooms in all - the variance due to the equivalent of one room being converted into a hotel guest library.
The rooms are equipped with individual thermostats which heat the bathroom floors, the towel bar, the toilet seat and the mirror. Almost all have free-standing European style deep-soaking tubs and a separate shower in the porcelainized Italian stone and marble bathroom. An integrated room automation system operates independent lighting fixtures, shades and drapes via a control panel.
Room sizes vary from about 375 to 550 square feet and costs range from the high $200s or $300s in the winter and $800 to $1,200 in the summer. Suite rates are different and are sized up to 685 square feet and feature a large veranda overlooking Broadway.
Last year, the company opened Salt & Char - a modern luxury steakhouse. Inside the hotel, the owners will open Morrissey’s – which holds additional seasonal seating for about 40 people outdoors on Broadway - and the Blue Hen fine dining restaurant, which sits towards the back end of the lobby. Morrissey’s, like Salt & Char will offer lunch and dinner and the Blue Hen will offer breakfast and dinner. Outdoor seasonal seating aside, all will be open year-round. “The food will be exceptionally good, fairly-priced and unique,” Ducamp said.
The main floor will also feature a large ballroom, the front of which will serve as a social gathering place. At the rear will be the re-created the Adelphi Garden, which is anticipated to open next spring.
“It’s for everybody and very relaxed. People can walk in off the street sit down and chat,” Ducamp explained. “If you’d like to have a cup of coffee in the morning or a cocktail in the afternoon – that’s nice. If you’d like to have a business meeting, that’s great too. It’s purely a gathering place for everybody. We want to make sure people in Saratoga Springs feel welcome. It’s a piece of the city, it’s a part of our culture and we want to make sure that people feel welcome and at home.”
Food and beverage pricing will be reasonable, Ducamp said. “This is a building that goes beyond ownership of a physical asset. This is a cultural asset a cultural icon for the city and it would be shameful if we did not make it completely accessible to local residents.”
There are hand-carved mahogany and walnut mirrors in the hallway dating to the original hotel in the 1870s, custom-designed wall patterns exclusive to the hotel, an original raw steel support pole that travels along a north-south path through the floors, and a massive mahogany-and-walnut staircase that was painstakingly disassembled and completely restored.
“All of the wall coverings, all of the light fixtures, all fabrics are custom-designed, or are original. It’s not something that you can find in any store.”
There is a focus on sustainability both in the guest rooms and in the food and beverage detail, where non-GMO products are provided nearly entirely by local farmers, and everything is completely composted.
The exterior colors of the hotel very closely match the colors of the Adelphi in 1877, before the 20th century color palette moved toward darker colors and the rooms incorporate vintage glassware, hatboxes and magazines – the latter dating to at least the 1920s, as well as Italian linens and lighted makeup mirrors. The beds incorporate custom-designed linens made in Italy, a unique artistic pattern that matches the wall coverings. and a 1-1/2-inch-thick mattress topper made of a product comprised of the processed bark of a eucalyptus tree that was grown in a biodynamic and sustainable forest in Austria.
“It’s absolutely divine and there’s nothing like it. Once you get in, you’ll never want to get out,” Ducamp said. “In three weeks, we hope to open. It’s getting very, very close.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Architectural renderings were released this week depicting the proposed exterior design of Universal Preservation Hall. Renovation work is expected to get underway at the historic Washington Street building in October, with a grand re-opening anticipated during the first quarter of 2019.
Constructed in 1871, the Victorian Gothic structure has served as a staging ground for everyone from Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass to Bruce Springsteen E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.
A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and in 2000, the city condemned the building. Members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and in 2015 got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing,
When it reopens, UPH will provide an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round experience with a capacity of 700-plus people, said UPH Campaign Director Teddy Foster. The building will feature new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.
New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a multi-level public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue and the main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate.
Once completed, it is anticipated UPH will stage approximately 200 events annually, and fill the city’s void of a year-round, mid-sized venue that has been absent since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall went up in a fireball in 1966.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following a year of preparation and three days of workshops, seminars, networking sessions and informational panels, Dan Tordjman was appreciating some well-deserved down-time on Wednesday, a day after wrapping up the first-ever Equestricon, which was staged Aug. 13-15 at the City Center.
The convention, billed as “the largest program schedule assembled for any fan event in the history of horse racing,” pretty much matched up with organizers’ expectations, explained the event’s co-founder.
“What we were trying to prove was that there was an appetite for this kind event - a fan base in horse racing interested in learning more about the game, and an industry interested in meeting face-to-face with potential customers,” Tordjman said. “I think we were able to do that.“
The ebb and flow of visitors during event days on Sunday and Monday - as people made their way between the racecourse and the City Center - was augmented by the convention’s largest gathering on Tuesday, when the track goes dark, he said.
For Tordjman, Tuesday’s highlight was the fan-friendly experience which posed attendees for photographs alongside the Kentucky Derby trophy and served as a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). “One of the most indelible moments was when someone from PDJF came on and could barely get one word out before they broke down crying and thanking us for doing it,” he enthused.
The crowd of approximately 1,000 people registered to attend in advance of the convention were supplemented by a free-flow of visitors attending independent events, many of whom had come from out-of-state and were visiting Saratoga for the first time.
“I think Saratoga has been on a bucket list for a lot of people and with Equestricon happening this year, they figured this was the time to make the trip,” said Tordjman, who credited the city for its hospitality – “they rolled out the red carpet for us” - and added that “everything is on the table” regarding Equestricon’s future staging ground. A formal announcement is expected “in a month or two,” although he anticipated a probable return to Saratoga Springs in 2018.
Monday was punctuated by a keynote address regarding horse aftercare by longtime journalist Soledad O’Brien, who has worked as a correspondent for Al Jazeera America, produced documentaries for CNN, and runs the Starfish Media Group production company.
“One of the things I see analogous between the stories I report and the thoroughbreds I had the opportunity to adopt over the years is that in every story people want to work. They want good valued work, (and) horses, like people, like to work. You like to feel that you’ve accomplished something. They like to be run and exercised and walked – and get treats, too,” said O’Brien during a morning presser attended by more than a dozen credentialed photojournalists, print journalists, TV news camera operators and one millennial who aimed a smart phone at the speaker and announced, “I’m Facebooking-it live,” to anyone who cared to listen. Outside in the main hall dozens of Equestricon staffers wore black T-shirts emblazoned with yellow stencils that read: Ask Me Anything.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have three off-the-track racehorses, I would have said, ‘You have lost your mind,’” O’Brien explained. “I thought: racehorses are hot, somewhat crazy, and you would certainly never put a child on a racehorse.” That assumption was not accurate, she learned.
“My husband and I got into getting horses from aftercare about 10 years ago and we were completely and utterly surprised at how successful it’s been. We went to the aftercare facility and every single stereotype we thought we knew about retired racehorses coming off the track wasn’t true,” O’Brien said. “Over the years we have had three retired racehorses, and a bunch of other horses - different breeds - and there’s no difference between them. They do the same things our other horses do.”
O’Brien, who calls herself “a mediocre-to-average rider who just loves horses,” said the racehorses have smoothly transitioned into great new jobs, retrained as jumpers and specified one in particular, whose name is “Joey” as being her young daughter’s favorite.
“We got him off the track and a couple of days later we were riding him. He’s got the sweetest disposition. At the end of the day, those stereotypes were certainly not true and I think that was my biggest learning curve, recognizing the opportunity with these horses that needed new homes and new jobs.”
Beginning on Saturday Aug. 19, residential, business and wireless customers within the existing 518 area code must add the “518” prefix to existing 7-digit local telephone numbers.
Last September, the state Public Service Commission approved a new area code to be added to the current 518 area code region to ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers. The 518 region serves all or part of the 17 counties in eastern upstate New York, including Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Warren and Washington counties.
The addition of the numbers serves as an introduction of a new 838 area code that will be “overlaid,” or superimposed, over the same geographic area as the 518 area code. Current telephone numbers, including current area code, will not change. However, all calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10-digit phone numbers.
Beginning Sept. 19, customers in the 518 area code region requesting new service, an additional line, or a move in the location of their service, may be assigned a number in the new 838 area code.
The price of a call, and the price of other telephone services, will not change due to the new overlay area code. Calls to reach 911 Emergency Service will remain three digits, and existing 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 services will also remain three-digit dial numbers.
The Commission recommends that customers identify their telephone number as a 10-digit number (area code + 7-digit local telephone number) when giving the number to friends, family members, business associates and others.
Furthermore, the Commission recommends customers ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, applications, software, or other types of equipment recognize the new 838 area code as a valid area code. Some examples are: life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and similar functions. Business stationery, advertising materials, personal checks, and personal or pet ID tags should include the area code.
All calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10- digits and the digit prefix “1” must be included for all calls to other area codes.
Elevated Levels of Lead Discovered in Drinking Water in Some City Homes
While conducting routine testing of 60 city households, seven households were discovered to have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco sought to assure residents that the exceedance occurred in a small number of homes with lead plumbing fixtures and that the city’s municipal water supply does not contain lead.
“First and foremost, the water supplied to the city is safe and free of lead,” Scirocco said. Both of the city’s public water sources at the Water Treatment Plant and Geyser Crest Subdivision tested at “non-detect” levels for lead.
It is believed the cause for the exceedance in the seven households – which were built between 1982 and 1986 - is due to older pipes or plumbing materials containing lead. Previous sampling in 2015 and 2016 demonstrated levels below the action level threshold.
Homes built before 1986 can potentially have lead soldering and other fixtures that increase the possibility for lead to enter the water. Lead can enter the water when it remains in contact with pipes or fixtures that contain lead for an extended period of time. To reduce the amount of lead in water, it is recommended the water be run for at least 30 seconds, or until water is cold to the touch or reaches a steady temperature, before using it for drinking or cooking. This process flushes lead-containing water from the fixture, according to the DPW.
“We are conducting confirmatory sampling of the impacted homes and taking action to ensure that every resident in our city has clean water,” said Scirocco, adding that an aggressive plan to adjust the water chemistry to prevent the leaching of lead from older residential pipes and fixtures is being finalized for approval by the New York State Department of Health.
The City has contacted the seven households where testing levels were above the threshold to re-sample the water and offer an alternative water source while awaiting a second round of testing results.
Anita Gabalski, district director at the state Department of Health, was present at Tuesday’s meeting and credited Scirocco with acting swiftly to address the issue and hiring a firm to conduct a corrosion control strategy.
Residents concerned about the plumbing in their homes, or with any questions about their drinking water, can contact the city’s 24-hour water response line established at the Water Treatment Plant at 518-584-1848.
Public Hearing Re: Eminent Domain Procedures for Geyser Road Trail Plan Remains Open
A 90-minute public hearing regarding Eminent Domain Procedures related to the city’s proposed Geyser Road Trail Plan was held Tuesday night at City Hall. Public comments regarding the issue will be accepted through Aug. 15, and the council will not take action prior to its Sept. 5 meeting, Mayor Yepsen said. Contacts via the city’s website is at: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/.
PILOT Plan Approved for West Side Affordable Housing Development
The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a payment-in-lieu of taxes agreement regarding the Intrada Saratoga Springs Affordable Housing Project. The Missouri-based Vecino Group seeks to develop one three-story building and three four-story buildings just east of the Saratoga train station and near the Washington Street post office.
The development proposal calls for the construction of 158 “affordable” multi-family rental units. For renters, the one, two and three-bedroom apartment units break down in this way: 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 50 percent or less, 109 will be available for persons with an AMI of 60 percent or less, and 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 80 percent or less. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is approximately $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The PILOT Agreement calls for the company to make annual payments in lieu of taxes to the city. The tax exemption will begin on the date when the city issues a final certificate of occupancy and extend for 31 years. The annual payment in lieu of taxes will start at approximately $84,000 and increase each year by two percent.
City Adoption of South Broadway Park Remains on Hold
The City Council tabled a vote that would have used up to $20,000 of Open Space Bond Funds in the process of securing a parcel of land at a key intersection on South Broadway donated by the Crown Oil company.
The council was informed at the last minute that funds specific to Open Space could not be used for things such as ground-testing.
“We’ll have to find a different funding source to conduct testing,“ Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
Last month, the city tapped the brakes regarding the gifted parcel, pending a further review pending any potentially lingering hazardous conditions, given its previous standing as a longtime gas station.
The property sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade. In April, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – expressed a desire to gift to the city the parcel, which was recently appraisal set at a value of $340,000. As far back as a decade ago, the city had considered purchasing the 0.2-acre parcel outright to develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures.
City costs associated with the donated parcel, outside of testing, include conducting a standard title search and closing costs.
Some suggestions regarding its future use if and when the city does accept the parcel include turning the property into a pocket park, installing benches, constructing a pavilion, or possibly re-routing a nearby spring to flow to the site.
Behind Closed Doors
An executive session was held late Tuesday regarding a lawsuit challenges the permanent siting of the proposed Code Blue homeless emergency shelter on city’s west side, and an unrelated suit involving Mouzon House restaurant and the potential development of a multi-story parking garage behind the Saratoga Springs City Center. No action was taken on either discussion.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert Chauvin at Saratoga County is believed to be hearing both cases, and a decision regarding the Code Blue shelter is anticipated to be delivered in mid-August.
The Planning Board will host a workshop 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7 and a full meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 at City Hall.
The Charter Review Commission will host a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – What was the first song you heard that opened up a whole new world of possibilities? What was the most memorable concert you attended that remains a fond memory to this day?
Come a share an evening of stories celebrating the history of rock and roll in Saratoga and beyond in a free public forum from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Ever since 1956, when Elvis first shook his hips into the living rooms of America, rock and roll has had a powerful impact in shaping our world.
Where you there the night Phish played at a small club on Caroline Street in 1990? How about that summer night in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen stopped the rain? Were you among the 30,000-plus who saw The Who at SPAC, or in the crowd of 40,000 who partied to the sounds of the Grateful Dead at the venue in 1985? The Allman Brothers at Skidmore College? U2 at the Saratoga Casino?
The Jean Stamm Memorial Event will be held at the H. Dutcher Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library at 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs and will be followed by an open mic featuring any audience members willing to share their own special moments.
The free event will be moderated by journalist Thomas Dimopoulos and will feature George Demers, Joe Deuel, Mary Ann Fitzgerald, Greg Haymes, Robert Millis, Larry Wies and other guests.
Why We Like Him: With his trademark raspy voice and exemplary musical lineage, Rod Stewart is one of the top-selling singers of the 20th century. Of particular note: his run with the Jeff Beck Group in the 1960s and his stint with The Faces, as well as his solo albums, through the mid-1970s.
Heritage: Born of Scottish and English ancestry. Loves soccer. Knighted by Prince William at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
Set List: Twenty songs. Ten originals. Ten covers.
Visually: Sir Rod looks healthy up against the 72 years he has spent on earth: shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest, swatches of blonde zagging across his scalp, and a voice that mostly still manages fine and complemented on stage by a chorus of back-up singers. His shaggy-hair look also inspired more than a few fans to don Rod The Mod hair-wigs, although for the most part the wigs seemed less like the classic rooster-cut of the ‘70s and more like a Long Island housewife’s beehive hair-do that had been violated by a pair of sheep shears.
Memorable songs performed: The Faces’ “Stay With Me” still maintained some of its original joy-filled intensity, and was supplemented by the kicking of several soccer balls into the crowd. Renditions of Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” and Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is The Deepest” were emotionally moving during the evening’s five-song acoustic set. “Maggie May” and “Ooh La La” were not.
Stewart name-checked blues legend Muddy Waters before performing the Hambone Willie Newbern song “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” – which dates back to at least 1929 - dedicated “Young Turks” to World War II servicemen, covered Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train,” and performed a duet with Cyndi Lauper on The Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine.”
“You Wear It Well” brought the crowd to its feet, and “You’re In My Heart” had them swaying, arms waving and taking the lead on the choruses.
Ill-advised: The drum solo during “Forever Young,” featuring two drummers no less, making the most boring thing in rock doubly so. Another low moment occurred when the band, sans Rod, played “Proud Mary” Ike & Tina Turner style - likely meant to be a tribute, but mostly just looked like a foolish parody. Coincidentally, both segments were used to occupy time so that Rod could go backstage and change into another outfit.
Overall: Entertaining, but lacking the emotional passion that set him apart from his peers during the early 1970s when he reigned as king. All the sharp edges were removed from the guitars, the band – in their matching suits and neat styles – looked more like Rod’s wait staff than musical foils, and Rod himself seems destined to grab the title of rock’s version of Wayne Newton. Clearly, he misses Ron Wood, who left to join the Rolling Stones in 1975. It doesn’t look like the Stones are going to give him back any time soon.
Most annoyingly is the known talent that Stewart once promised before he began his descent into the maelstrom of mainstream mediocrity. It was what promptedmusic critic Greil Marcus to proclaim decades ago: “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely.” Not much has changed.
Why We Like Her: Fun, talented, and charming.
Heritage: Born at Astoria General Hospital and grew up in Ozone Park - both neighborhoods in Queens whose surrounding environs also spawned Tony Bennett, Simon and Garfunkel, Marty Scorsese, three New York Dolls, all four of the Ramones, and Steinway Pianos.
Set List: 11 songs, covering a span of recordings from 1983’s “She’s So Unusual,” to “Detour,” which was released in 2006.
Visually: The show began with Lauper swinging around an oversized traveling trunk while teetering atop a pair of high heel shoes, her dancing form framed by massive video screens that depicted Betty Grable days and classic Horror film nights. During her singing of “She Bop,” perhaps most appropriately, she shucked off her oversized top hat and her shoes and performed the balance of the set in bare feet, alternating between song and stand-up shtick, including a joke of sorts about a Nashville hotel that merged Dolly Parton with the Dalai Lama. She also name-checked Captain Lou Albano.
Memorable songs performed: The set began a bit rough – including one off-key tune which was halted and re-started for which a missing stage prop was blamed - but hit stride mid-way through the set and absolutely took off with the turbo-charged fury of “Money Changes Everything,” the joy-filled “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – which also included pertinent social messages - a charming rendition of “Time After Time,” and an emotionally charged “Not My Father’s Son.” “True Colors,” Lauper’s beautifully haunting ode to humanity, provided the show-closer.
Throughout her set Lauper alternately whirled like a dervish, shared center stage with a dulcimer, and serenaded like a chanteuse. “Have a beautiful summer,” she told the crowd as she exited the stage. “Take care of each other and remember: diversity makes us stronger.” As one clearly moved row-mate inside the amphitheater expressed after Lauper’s finale: She really leaves it all up on that stage.