Thousands of Rod Stewart fans traveled hundreds of miles to watch the rocker take to the stage in Brighton last night.

A near sell-out crowd of about 23,000 people packed the American Express Community Stadium for the first night of his stadium tour.

Southern Rail ran extra trains, equivalent to its football services, but there was still a worrying wait for many fans who got stuck in traffic.

There were heavy queues on both the A27 and A23 from about 5pm as fans tried to get to Falmer.

But everyone seemed to have made their seats in plenty of time to hear Rod kick off the concert with This Old Heart of Mine just after 8.30pm.

After his first track Rod confessed he also had problems getting through the heavy traffic to the gig, before encouraging the audience to take part in a mass sing-a-long for the end of a rousing rendition of Tonight's The Night.

Claire Watson, 39, and Louise Harman, 34, had a short journey to the stadium from their home in Woodingdean.

Claire said: “For us it's easy to come here.

“It takes the pressure off, instead of having to travel all the way to London.

“I think they should do more gigs here.

“I like Rod's old stuff more than his recent stuff. We wanted to see Rod while he's still touring.”

Coleen Bonnar, 27, from Kemp Town, welcomed her dad and avid Rod fan Michael down from Sunderland for the gig.

Coleen said: “I like his songs as I grew up listening to him.

“And he's a Celtic fan.”

Michael said: “I got the tickets for Christmas.

“I'm a fan of Rod but I've never seen him apart from outside the Scottish Cup Final.

“If you are a Celtic fan then you're going to like Rod Stewart.”

The bagpipe band 1066 Pipes and Drums, from Hastings, kicked off the entertainment for the evening with Stewart's much loved Scottish theme.

And the warm-up continued with the band Dixie Mix.

Savar Baldursson and Thora Gudjonsdottir traveled 1,200 miles from Reykjavík especially for the concert.

Savar, 67, said: “We've been very excited as it's the first time we've seen him.

“We went into Brighton before the gig and it's a wonderful city.

“We've had a wonderful day.”

Rod had told The Argus the night was “something of a homecoming” as he spent much of his youth in Brighton and once lived on a houseboat in Shoreham.

He had expected it to be a “wonderful night for everybody”.

He said: “I love doing outdoor shows. Especially football stadiums.”

For Sharnee Cooper, from Coldean and her mum June Willcocks, from Goring, it was a very special day.

They got their tickets in February but a month ago June was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

June said: “I've wanted to see him ever since he was in The Faces.

“I have to make the most of every day because they've just told me I've got a few months.”

Sharnee said: “It's a mother and daughter day out.”

Sam Macleckie, 33 and her friend Dianah (CORR) Hubert, 54, work together at Sussex Beacon, a charity which offers specialist care and support people with HIV.

Sam said: “My parents introduced me to Rod's music so I've always known it.

“We booked the day off so it's been really nice.”