Rod Stewart, Brighton

Sandpaper-voiced singer still going strong at 69

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Making the Atlantic Crossing for a short British tour before his latest round of US dates, Rod Stewart is still riding high on the success of last year’s Time album, his first UK chart-topper in 34 years.

The tour kicked off in Brighton, Rod the Mod’s former teenage stomping ground, as commemorated on the album in the nostalgic love ballad Brighton Beach. Stewart played an impressively energetic, hit-packed show to around 20,000 people. He’s still got it, even at the ripe old age of 69. Oo-er matron.

So Rod’s still rocking on the cusp of 70? On the old rocker scale, was this a Leonard Cohen-level triumph, a Dylan-esque hit-and-miss muddle or a Blondie-style trashing of former glories?

None of the above. It was a solid two-hour marathon of rock’n’soul with a punchy, well-drilled band and a chorus of sensational female backing singers, who traded showy vocal acrobatics with Rod at the end of Rhythm of My Heart. It felt polished, glitzy and ready for Las Vegas, which is where Stewart is heading for an extended residency from September.

This show occurred in a football stadium at the start of the World Cup. Presumably rock’s most famous Scottish cockney offered some kind of cheeky comment on England’s chances?

Surprisingly, no, he resisted the temptation. But he did big up his beloved Celtic, and showed plenty of soccer-themed footage on his giant stage video screen. He also kicked dozens of signed footballs into the crowd during Hot Legs, as is traditional. In fact, one of them sparked a fight between punters and security guards had to intervene. Ah, the beautiful game.

How’s that legendary sandpaper voice holding up?

It sounds surprisingly smooth and sweet these days. Maybe just mellowing like fine wine, or possibly the result of Rod’s surgery for thyroid cancer back in 2000, after which he had to re-learn to sing. This took the edge off some of the more rocking numbers but added warm new depths to soulful romantic ballads like Have I Told You Lately and_ _The First Cut Is The Deepest.

Did Rod say anything to confirm that rumoured Faces reunion tour for next year?

No but he did namecheck his old band and played an agreeably sloppy, rowdy version of Stay With Me. Lots of old footage of the Two Ronnies – Wood and Lane - on the video screen too._ _

Any kilts or leopardskin spandex leggings on display?

Nothing quite that naff. Rod began the show in a sky blue blazer, changed into a gold suit for the acoustic section, then squeezed into a flowery shirt and bright red trousers for the finale. It was an odd combination of louche country gent, Alan Partridge sports casual and circus clown. But he wore it well.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.