The Real Rod Stewart Band (1975-1984) - Apart From Rod, The Brook, Southampton.

Concerts just don’t produce moments more spine-tingling than that sublime guitar solo in I Was Only Joking.

And it was musical bliss to have it delivered here by the guys that created it, Jim Cregan and Gary Grainger, members of the Rod Stewart band back in the days when every song was massive.

Joined by superb new vocalist Ben Mills, Cregan and Grainger have created a tribute band in the truest sense - not just a bunch of never-have-beens clinging on to somebody else’s musical coat tails, but the original musicians offering up superb music exactly as it should be played.

No one else can play it like Cregan and Grainger, and that’s the point as they masterfully showed the gulf between the wanabees and the real thing.

Between them, they’re the band’s powerhouse, and the way they worked together was a joy to behold, with Grainger rightly enjoying a much more prominent role than in their Brook debut back in June.

This was interplay in the Wood/Richards class.

And with Harry James on drums, Pat Davey on bass and a terrific last-minute local stand-on on keys, they provided the perfect platform for Ben Mills to soar.

Remarkably it was just his second concert with the band after the departure of original vocalist Jim Stapley, but Mills showed every sign that he’s going to out-Rod Jim with a classy performance which absolutely nailed those great Rod vocals.

With more performances under his belt, the showmanship will doubtless come through, but in vocal terms alone, this was an astonishing debut - completely spot on with an effortlessness which suggests this was far more than just slavish impersonation.

Put it all together, and you’ve got something very special indeed - especially when you consider the catalogue they’ve got to work with from the days when every one was a winner.

It’s tough to pick highlights. In his pomp, Rod just didn’t do duff songs. But Maggie May, I Don’t Want To Talk About It and You’re In My Heart just possibly saw them step up a gear. Also it was great to hear Stay With Me and I’m Losing You from Rod’s Faces days.

But nothing’s ever going to surpass I Was Only Joking - the highlight of an exceptional show.

Then again, it was never going to disappoint.

Rod Stewart’s glory days produced a wonderful body of work (particularly for those of us for whom virtually every song is drenched in memories); combine it with musicianship of the highest order, and you’ve got the best recipe ever - especially when you then throw into the mix a venue such as The Brook, comfortably the best the area can offer.

Tonight was most definitely the night.

Phil Hewitt