ROD Stewart’s York Racecourse concert on June 1 has sold out, drawing 30,000 to a specially designed pop-up stage on the Knavesmire course.

Buoyed by his 30th studio album, the self-penned Blood Red Roses, debuting at number one last September, Sir Rod is mounting his “biggest ever UK tour” of football stadia and indoor and outdoor arenas.

Bramall Lane, Sheffield, on June 15 and Leeds First Direct Arena on December 11 await, with tickets available for both at

Whereas Rod’s 72-year-old chum Sir Elton John – they call each other “Sharon” and “Phyllis” – is undertaking his 300-date Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Sir Rod is not contemplating retirement at 74.

“Not at all,” he says. “I’m proud of my age… and most of my peers are dead, not retired! I enjoy it, that’s what it comes down to. There will be a time, I’m sure, for retirement and I’m closer than I was years ago."

To Sir Rod, “retirement is not a lovely word”. “People always talk about ‘looking forward to retiring’ but for me that’s an awful thought. I’m lucky I have a brilliant job that I love, and as long as I enjoy it and people are coming out in their droves to the shows then I will go on,” he asserts.

Sir Rod maintains a fitness regime to keep him in peak shape for his concerts, from three personal trainer sessions a week and swimming, to playing football with his youngest sons and rowing.

"I always make the comparison with football, which I’ve played all my life,” he says. “It’s an ugly game if you’re not fit and everyone’s running past you, leaving you behind, but if you’re keeping up, it’s beautiful.”

Given the chart-topping success of Blood Red Roses and his Great American Songbook records, let alone his myriad hits, from Maggie May to Rhythm Of My Heart, Sir Rod has much to weigh up in choosing a 20-song set list each night.

“We know there are certain songs people love to hear, of course, but I like to bring back ones from way back when, and there’ll be a fair sprinkling of those, probably two from Blood Red Roses and a couple from the two albums before that, Time and Another Country,” he says.

“People want to hear the songs like I Don’t Wanna Talk About It, and that keeps them in the show. And we don’t really drop songs, we change the show every every crowd gets a slightly different show.

“It keeps the band on their toes – and they keep me on mine! It’s a big band, six girls, six men and they’re very lively. It’s good to have the youngsters around.”

Latterly, Sir Rod has resumed songwriting, after his series of Great American Songbook covers in the Noughties. He had lost confidence in penning his own material in the early Nineties, as documented in Rod: The Autobiography, but that book triggered his creativity anew.

"When I wrote my book, that sparked in me the realisation that I had stories still to tell, about my early beginnings, my dad, and that book spawned the writing, it came back to me," he says.

"I had thought it had gone and left me, but it doesn’t really, it’s not a physical thing; you just have to put your mind to it. I teamed up again with Kevin Savigar, my co-writer and producer now, and he brought it out of me again."

There was a point too when Sir Rod did not even want to venture into a studio, he reveals. "I couldn’t bear the thought of going into the dark studio space, but again it was Kevin who got me back, he came along and we started doing it on our computers," he says.

"He would write a tune, send it to me, I’d ‘la-di-diddly-dah’ over it and send it back. We’d add drum machines or whatever, and see how it sounded. Then, if we felt it needed a drummer, we would get a drummer in, and embellish it with real musicians… And all the while, I’d be seeing daylight and enjoying fresh air."

Analysing his longevity and continuing creativity, Sir Rod says: "I don’t think I jump on bandwagons, maybe a little bit with disco and Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, but mainly I’ve followed my own instincts and I’m glad to see changes in the industry, and it stepping up a bit.

"What we do, rock'n'roll, is such an innocent form of music, using the same chords and themes time and time again, but it stays fresh."

Sir Rod will be playing to 30,000 on Knavesmire, but he still revels in performing all manner of shows. "Whether it’s a small festival or a great big one, we give every show the same 110 per cent," he says. "We have played to 54 people once, for a wealthy Russian man in Rome who must have only known 50 people – and he invited all of them. He paid me a lot of money, and we gave the same show as we would at Madison Square Garden.

"It’s funny, when it’s smaller like that, or in Vegas, not everybody there is a Rod Stewart fan, so you have to win them over. It's not like doing a show in Britain where everybody wants the night to be a success and to have a good time."

Asked what fans heading to his York, Sheffield and Leeds shows in 2019 should expect, Sir Rod laughs as he says: "A total load of flipping rubbish!

"I can only do what I do, sing a collection of wonderful songs; new ones, old ones, a few surprises, and there’s a whole new visual going on.

"I’m not going to take my trousers down, not this time, maybe when I get really desperate I will. When you forget to put your trousers on, maybe that’s the time to pack it in."

Rod Stewart plays York Racecourse, June 1, from 5pm; sold out. Please note, this is a Cuffe and Taylor promotion, not a York Racecourse race day concert.

Charles Hutchinson