One million cram Rio beach for Rolling Stones show

RIO DE JANEIRO - Veteran rock group the Rolling Stones treated one million delirious fans to a rock'n' roll spectacle with a free show on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach on Saturday night in what was one of the biggest rock concerts ever.

Singer Mick Jagger, 62, danced around the stage like a skinny teenager for the two-hour show, which featured songs from the Stones' early days in London 40 years ago and from their latest Grammy-winning album A Bigger Bang.

Police had more than 6000 officers stationed throughout Rio, one of the most beautiful but violent cities in the world. Officials had been worried about widespread thefts or trouble with the drug gangs that rule the shantytowns, or favelas.

"Nothing serious happened, thanks to God. It was calm," said police Colonel Leonardo Tavares.

A fire department official said about 250 people were treated for exhaustion, drunkenness and other problems.

Paramilitary troops had occupied several favelas after rival drug gangs killed six people in the Rocinha shantytown on Wednesday.

Tavares estimated the crowd numbered about one million. Thousands more milled around surrounding streets, drinking beer and holding impromptu parties.

Others watched from a flotilla of private boats in the bay and from hotel rooms along Atlantic Avenue, the main thoroughfare along the beach.

With its reputation for decadence, drugs and debauchery, Rio was the perfect venue for the former bad boys of rock.

The Rio concert was part of the band's A Bigger Bang tour, which kicked off in the United States in August and was the top-grossing rock tour of last year.

Fans came from as far away as Japan and Europe for the show.

From the classic opening riff of Jumping Jack Flash, to the encore of Satisfaction, fans sang, tried to dance on the crammed 1.5km stretch of beach and chanted praise for craggy-faced guitarist Keith Richards.

A group of die-hard supporters from Minas Gerais state arrived at the beach at 9am so they could get as close to the action as possible.

"I just wanted to see the greatest rock and roll band in the world. This is history," said one fan who identified himself as Carlos.

"I want to hear Gimme Shelter, Start Me Up and Wild Horses." The band played the latter two songs.

The public was separated from the stage by an enclosure for 4000 VIP guests of the promoter, the sponsors and the band.

The enclosure angered Freda, a 30-year-old teacher who travelled from Sao Paulo for the concert.

"It is always like this in Brazil, everything for the millionaires," she said.

At one point, a section of the crowd started an obscene chant directed at the VIPs, who included actor Rodrigo Santoro and Brazilian TV presenter and model Luciana Gimenez, Jagger's former lover and the mother of his 6-year-old son, Lucas.

"Brazilians have been through a lot of hardship, so this is a gift for them," Gimenez said. "It is free, so that is politically correct."

Rio de Janeiro city paid about $1.1 million for the show, or about 16 per cent of the cost, with the rest covered by telecommunications companies Claro and Motorola.

- NZPA

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