Gig review: Rod Stewart, Rugby Park, Kilmarnock

On the approach to Kilmarnock from the north, some eager fan of Rod Stewart's had commandeered a footbridge to tell any passing motorist '“ in determinedly homemade fashion '“ that they were entering the orbit of a knight of the realm.

Sir Roderick remains a consummate entertainer, retaining contact with voice, his music and his devoted fan base. Picture: Michael Gillen
Sir Roderick remains a consummate entertainer, retaining contact with voice, his music and his devoted fan base. Picture: Michael Gillen

Rod Stewart | Rating: **** | Rugby Park, Kilmarnock

“Sir Rod” blared the message from the old bedsheet simply, in bold capitals of Celtic (Rod’s team) green. Stewart was granted the title in the Queen’s birthday honours last week, and his loyal fans were keen to join him in celebration.

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The weather seemed happy to help too, and a warm, clear Ayrshire night saw locals around Kilmarnock FC’s ground hanging out of their front doors and commencing impromptu street parties so they might better hear a set of poignant anthems like You Wear It Well, Downtown Train and Rhythm of My Heart.

Inside the stadium, as honed by many years of graft as the kind of heritage act who commands a fun-loving but devoted crowd, the 71-year-old Stewart did a pretty good job of being all things to all people.

On the one hand, his show was unashamedly showbiz, all production values and costume changes (from a skinny black military-style suit with gold tassles to skinny white trousers and a gleaming gold suit jacket; everything on Stewart is skinny).

The wall of LCD screens behind him showed images of the singer in his youth. The women on stage with him – bandmates, singers and dancers – wore matching gold sequins and filled in with a lively take on Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free while Stewart decamped to change once more.

On the other hand, however, Stewart retains contact with all that’s been musically credible in his career, from the boisterous and well-remembered blues-rock of his time in the Faces (Stay With Me, like most of the set, was played with creditable enthusiasm and saxophone-abetted volume, while Oh La La was tender and wistful) to his latter-day career as a soulful interpreter of the classics. A powerful take on Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind displayed his still-got-it vocal ability, while a short acoustic set balanced the sober The First Cut is the Deepest and I Don’t Want to Talk About It with a misty-eyed You’re in My Heart which was soon wrested from him by a full-voiced crowd.

It was at once simply a good Friday night out and a consummate show from a still-emotive vocalist. That he could close by skipping between the convincingly dewy-eyed Scots nostalgia of Wild Mountain Thyme, the heart-warming elegia of Sailing and the fun but frankly daft Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? as a firework closer was evidence of his range.