Singer Rod Stewart told a jury Wednesday that he was in no shape to perform a New Year’s concert at the Rio hotel-casino in December 2000 because he had just had throat surgery seven months earlier.
“There was nothing there. No strength,” Stewart testified in the civil breach-of-contract suit filed against him by casino owner Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. “I was petrified. I was scared. This was my livelihood.”
The 60-year-old British singer had two thyroid tumors removed in May 2000. He said his trademark raspy voice recovered in time to begin a world concert tour in June 2001.
Stewart estimated he had performed 150 shows since then and said he would be willing to play up to two makeup concerts at the Rio if Harrah’s would agree.
The company sued Stewart for the $2 million advance he was paid for the December 2000 show, plus interest and attorney fees. Testimony in the case was expected to continue Thursday.
Gary Loveman, Harrah’s chief executive, said another performance date wouldn’t be as profitable for the casino as the millennium celebration weekend.
Harrah’s lawyer Stephen Morris asked Stewart about the $25.3 million contract the singer signed in November 2000 committing him to promoter Clear Channel Entertainment for 100 shows on the world tour.
Stewart said he didn’t know if his representatives told the Rio about the contract. Outside court, Morris said Stewart’s agents canceled the Las Vegas show the day after the contract was signed.
Under earlier questioning from his own lawyer, Stewart said he didn’t read every contract negotiated by his lawyers and managers.
“I turn up and sing,” he said.
Stewart, who last week said he was fighting the case to defend his honor, said outside court that his half-hour on the stand Wednesday was one of the scariest things he had ever done.
“The other was throat surgery,” he said.