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Stones Roll Their Biggest Show Ever in Rio, Brazil

Just a week before Carnaval, the Rolling Stones drew an estimated one and a half million people to a free concert Saturday night, February 18, on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, in southeastern Brazil.

It was the British pop icons’ biggest-ever show. The band has been entertaining audiences for more than four decades.

The nearly two-and-a-half-hour performance by band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts and their sidemen and sidewomen included such hits as "Brown Sugar," "You Can’t Always Get What You Want," and "Satisfaction."

For the Rolling Stones, it was their first concert in the city since 1998. For Rio de Janeiro, it was a chance to burnish an image tarnished by a reputation for violence, the city’s mayor, Cesar Maia, said in an interview before the show.

"It was marvelous, peace and love reigned under a nearly full moon despite the huge crowds," said Mari Martins, 30, who watched the show from the water’s edge. "The best moment was ‘Satisfaction,’ when everyone, even those who knew no English, began jumping and singing."

Most of the fans watched packed into a 1.6-kilometer (1-mile) stretch of the 4.6-kilometer-long Copacabana beach. Others watched from the windows and balconies of the high-rises apartments and hotels that line the waterfront.

On the other side of the beach hundreds of boats anchored within sight of the stage. The view from the boats was the same one that inspired Cole Porter to write the lyric, "It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s delovely."

Thousands of others milled around on the beach or in the narrow streets of Copacabana. Globo News, which broadcast the concert in Rio, estimated the crowd at 1.5 million people.

The concert brought band members back to a city that they know well. A visit in 1968 helped inspire the hit song "Sympathy for the Devil."

In 1998, after the Stones’ last show in Rio, Jagger began a relationship with model Luciana Gimenez Morad that resulted in a son and contributed to the breakup of his marriage with model-actress Jerry Hall.

Jagger, who has a Brazilian son, spoke to the crowd in Portuguese and saluted the major regions and states of this country of 185 million, winning applause from the crowd.

Speaking in Portuguese, he said, "Rio is Fantastic."

The city, for its part, is counting on the show and the publicity surrounding it to bolster an image tarnished by violence and bolster the city’s place as Brazil’s cultural capital. The government paid 10 percent of the show’s US$ 5.4 million budget.

"Events like this put the lie to our violent image," "This is an event of international impact that shows the city’s specialty for large events and their peaceful nature."

Crowds were large but peaceful. Fans were served by thousands of street vendors selling beer, soft drinks, whiskey, hot dogs, souvenirs and pirate Rolling Stones T-shirts, head- bands and other paraphernalia.

While more than 10,000 police provided security, criminals still made their presence felt. Preparations for the show, which is part of the "Bigger Bang" tour, started months ago. Hotels have been booked since August, including the Copacabana Palace, where the band is staying. Jagger, according to Globo News, would host a party for 600 people at the hotel after the show.

A film of the show will be shown in the U.S. on February 28 at 178 U.S. movie theaters.

Two more shows will be presented at Buenos Aires this week before they leave to Mexico during their last tour.

The show in numbers:

Nearly 2,000,000 fans were estimated to party alongside the Stones at Rio’s famed Copacabana Beach.

Nearly 1,500 people have been assembled as crew to produce this record-breaking event.

Nearly 200 movie theaters broadcast the historic concert to cheering fans across North America.

Countless beams, poles, and rigs are being used to assemble the 22 meter-high by 57 meter-wide main stage and the 55 meter-long B-Stage.

A staggering 16 towers and 8 video screens adorn the main stage.

Mercopress – www.mercopress.com

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