LATEST: Rod Stewart yesterday (31AUG05) told a court throat surgery prevented him from being able to perform a New Year's gig at a Las Vegas, Nevada, hotel in December 2000.

The MAGGIE MAY star took the stand in his ongoing court battle with Harrah's Entertainment, who own the Rio Hotel + Casino.

Harrah's are seeking the return of Stewart's $2 million (GBP1.1 million) concert fee, plus interest and legal fees.

Stewart, who underwent surgery for thyroid cancer in May 2000, seven months prior to the cancelled concert, testified he was unable to sing: "There was nothing there. No strength. I was petrified. I was scared. This was my livelihood."

The 60-year-old explained his throat had sufficiently healed for him to begin a world tour the following June (01).

He went on to say he'd played approximately 150 gigs since and would be happy to play two concerts at the Rio if its owners would agree.

Harrah's lawyer GARY LOVEMAN went on to question Stewart about the $25.3 million (GBP14 million) contract he signed in November 2000 to promote Clear Channel Entertainment for 100 shows on his world tour.

The singer said he didn't know whether his team had told the Rio about the contract.

Earlier, under questioning from his own lawyer, Stewart explained he rarely looks at contracts: "I turn up and sing."