WHEN he announced a 31-date UK Spring tour fans responded with sold out signs quickly popping up everywhere.

Liverpool was the first sell-out date.

Steve Harley has a great, affectionate and lasting relationship with the city having played gigs at all the main venues throughout a career spanning 46 years.

On this current trek singer-songwriter Mackenzie Cregan delighted the crowd with a five-song set including his single Woman of the East.

He is the versatile son of guitarist Jim Cregan but is a name to look out for in his own right.

The Acoustic Tour with virtuoso musicians Barrie Wickens (violin and guitar) and keyboard wizard James Lascelles is where Steve relishes the chance to be more intimate than his still- going-strong Cockney Rebel concerts.

"No two shows of mine are the same," he said as he sat on a stool in his trademark waistcoat sometimes singing without guitars while bathed in subtle lighting.

All the hits were there from Mr Soft to Judy Teen and the epic Sebastian.

Steve also provided spot on comic timing with anecdotes about Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, his lonely busking days and now meeting his loyal fans in the street.

He also enjoys hearing the on stage solos from his two stalwart musicians who make each song sound as fresh as when Steve first created them.

There were the lesser played album tracks too in a 20-song set played like a masterclass.

Each song showed Steve's gift for improvisation, notably the beautiful ballad A Friend for Life, which has been covered by Rod Stewart

Stranger Comes to Town and Ordinary People are examples of his gift for melody and thoughtful lyrics. His newer material sits well with his back-catalogue.

Every gig leads to the big one - Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) which is now being used in a Viagra advert.

It has been recorded more than 140 times from Duran Duran to Erasure.

But this 1975 classic frommthevman himself is the first and the best.

And there was a cracking, unscripted encore - the bluesy Tumbling Down, which clearly moved Steve as the audience kept on singing the chorus as he left the stage after yet another triumphant show.

"Liverpool thank you for welcoming me into your hearts," he smiled.

The feeling he must realise by now is always mutual.

Rebel with a Cause

5 Stars

DVD now released Live in Holland

Details from www.steveharley.com