Rod Stewart guitar hero Jim Cregan rocks The Stables

Review: Cregan & Co Rocker Jim Cregan raised the roof in one of the all-time great nights at The Stables.

Rod Stewart’s former right-hand man and his travelling troubadours gave a masterclass in musicianship, performance…and fun.

By the end, there was a barely a bum on a seat as almost 400 fans of a certain age danced in the aisles.

From the low key opener Downtown Train through to the inevitable ‘phone in the air’ finale of Sailing, the boys took us on a whirlwind tour of Sir Rod’s songbook, with a couple of original numbers thrown in for good measure.

The literally showstopping moment came early in the second half as Jim finished the extraordinary, soaring, minute-long guitar solo on I Was Only Joking.

The crowd burst into spontaneous applause, giving the band time to take a well-earned breather before finishing the classic 42-year-old ode to lost love and missed an opportunity. Guitar god Jim had another iconic performance up his sleeve on Steve Harley’s Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).

He seemingly effortlessly reproduced the gorgeous Flamenco-style solo he created in only three takes in the studio way back in 1975. But singer Ben Mills quipped afterwards: “You don’t know the pressure Jim is under to get that right when everyone in here knows every note.”

Ben was a revelation. He is no Rod Stewart and doesn’t pretend to be – Cregan & Co isn’t a tribute act. But his unique raspy voice gave the songs a whole new life, and he played the guitar throughout, which was a nice added touch.

Sam Tanner on keys was amazing – “his fingers a blur over the complicated machinery” to paraphrase the late, great Sir Terry Wogan. Brilliant bassist Pat Davey and eccentric drummer Harry James melded as one to produce an eclectic rhythm section.

Unforgettable was the massive sense of fun the band had – they absolutely love what they do – and the way they embraced the fans in this most intimate of venues, in Wavendon, Milton Keynes.

It was like they were playing in a friend’s front room – you can feel the genuine warmth and respect for each other. After a stomping three-song encore the fab five and their tour manager Neil Byford – who stepped on stage to play the mandolin on Maggie May – happily chatted with fans and signed Cds and t-shirts in the foyer.

Like many stars Cregan & Co love The Stables, describing it as their favourite place to play. And you can bet your bottom dollar they will be back. About to turn 73, Jim still has a twinkle in his eye and has no plans to hang up his trusty guitars. “Why would you? It’s what we live for.”