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The Stones Satisfy Toronto

430,000 attend SARS benefit concert

July 31, 2003 12:00 AM ET

The Rolling Stones' concert to aid Toronto rewrote the record books yesterday -- 430,000 people attended the eleven-hour spectacular that also featured Justin Timberlake, AC/DC, the Flaming Lips, the Guess Who and others, making it the largest paid concert ever staged.

Dubbed "SARS-stock," the concert was intended to bring much-needed tourism to the city, hit hard financially by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome this spring.

The Stones' long relationship with the Toronto includes many rehearsals sessions (and a notable drug bust). They flew in from Prague on Monday night, and were heading straight back to Europe after the show. Their night-closing ninety-minute set featured classics like "Brown Sugar," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Sympathy for the Devil," "Satisfaction," "Honky Tonk Women" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

Timberlake joined them to sing "Miss You" with Mick Jagger, the two shadowing each other's dancing and sharing the vocals. "What do you want to sing?" Jagger worked into the lyric. Timberlake answered, "Cry Me a River."

When Keith Richards took the mike to sing, he prefaced "Nearness of You" with a tribute. "We gotta recognize the ones who took the hit, you know," he said, referring to the forty-two people who died of SARS in greater Toronto. "All we can do is say goodbye and give them this song."

Jagger took the time to thank the healthcare workers of Toronto and the Canadian Armed Forces and U.S. troops overseas watching the concert, which was broadcast to 177 countries.

By the time the Stones took the stage with "Start Me Up," fourteen other bands had rocked Downsview Park, and the crowd, some of who had camped out overnight, was already started.

Timberlake's upbeat R&B-flavored set kicked off the night session. "I think I'm here for the same reason you are all here," he told the crowd. "To see the motherfuckin' Stones!"

They were also there for Toronto. Canadian rock legends the Guess Who got the red-and-white maple leaf flags waving: When they launched into the Bachman Turner Overdrive classic "Takin' Care of Business," former BTO guitarist Randy Bachman injected a snippet of "O Canada." Toronto natives and prog-rock legends Rush included an instrumental version of the Stones' "Paint it Black" in their set. "Thanks for coming to our hometown," singer Geddy Lee told the crowd. Later, Brian Johnson of Australian rockers AC/DC, in the midst of a set that included "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "Hell's Bells" and "Back in Black," dropped his pants to reveal his Canadian flag boxer shorts.

The concert raised one dollar Canadian from every ticket sold to go to SARS-affected hospitality and healthcare workers. The net profits will also go to the relief funds, and the Stones are donating fifty-percent of their proceeds from merchandise sales to the cause.

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