Review: Rod Stewart, York Racecourse, June 1

THROUGH the years he has transformed from "Rod the Mod" to "Sir Rod Is God" T-shirts, but the voice of Rod Stewart remains a pied piper unchanged by time's ravaging passage.

Promoters Cuffe and Taylor, so successful each summer at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, upped the ante by erecting up a pop-up stage on York Racecourse grass for 30,000 to rock up on a warm Saturday evening.

That's five times the OAT capacity, and Sir Rod sold out pronto as Knavesmire's biggest favourite since Frankel. All ran smoothly, from bars to bus queues home, a little patience required in the post-show bottlenecks, but time well spent casting an eye over the Rod lookalikes.

His fellow Celtic fans Johnny Mac And The Faithful had warmed up the Stewart clan of devotees with their stirring fusion of The Dubliners, Springsteen and Celtic rock before Rod 's arrival at 8.30pm on the nose, heralded by the fizz of fireworks.

Watching from the distance of what felt like two furlongs out, the big screens were vital to pick out Rod in his animal print jacket and the half dozen women vocalists and musicians in matching prints, coupled with the men in dandy pink jackets on guitars, drums and saxophone.

All the details were meticulous: Rod's three gaudy costume changes, facilitated by instrumental interludes and the girls singing Teardrops; Rod's banter and reminiscences; You Wear It Well and Maggie May cannily placed as early highs in the 23-song set; local involvement when the City of York PIpe Band pipers joining the band for Going Home.

Cannily, Rod paced himself at 74, sitting down for certain numbers. The emphasis throughout was on the voice, that voice, and the reward was wonderful versions of The Killing Of Georgie, Tonight's The Night and The First Cut Is The Deepest.

Dedicating Rhythm Of My Heart to the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, with accompanying wartime footage, was both fitting and moving, while the closing encore Of Muddy Waters' Blood Red Roses gloriously re-connected Rod, now the old master, with his blues beginnings. 

"I love it. I love singing. It's good for the heart; good for the lungs," he extolled, caught up once more in the exhilaration of performing.