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The Rolling Stones Sox it to Beantown

22 August, 2005

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The Rolling Stones opened their 2005-2006 world tour at Fenway Park last night. Old-Timers' Day it was not.There really was an air of electricity in the gorgeous, muggy Massachusetts afternoon, with everyone from sports radio DJs to cabbies offering views on the concert.

There really was an air of electricity in the gorgeous, muggy Massachusetts afternoon, with everyone from sports radio DJs to cabbies offering views on the concert.There were the usual cracks about the aging rockers, but for the most part it was a genuine thrill to have the show not only in the city but at the historic Fenway Park - the only other concerts allowed in the ball park have been shows by Jimmy Buffet and Bruce Springsteen, with a rumoured U2 show next year in the works.

The closer it got to 6:30 p.m. showtime and the closer you got to the venue, the crazier things were. Along Yawkey Way, just outside the ball park, it was a circus, with fans, souvenir sellers, scalpers, cops, media and even protesters - California Nurses Association members were protesting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's visit to the concert and a plane flew overhead with a banner mocking the "governator."

Those attempting to turn one of the sought-after 36,000 ducats into gold were apparently doing a brisk business although when approached and asked "How much?" most of the seasoned crew would mumble, "Face value" and turn quickly away.As for official merchandisers, they, too, were dealing with high demand but were a little more open with how business was.

"I'm very busy," said 23-year-old Maggi Bartlett, working one of the official booths. "Since 9 this morning, people have been asking for stuff." The merchandise ran from tote bags at $10 US, to $275 leather jackets. Most popular were the $35 T-shirts with the trademark Rolling Stone tongue given baseball stitches or any item specifically relating to the two Boston shows. Bartlett said she'd met a great many people from out of town, including some Canadians who had made the trip. The Stones opened with classics Start Me Up, You Got Me Rocking, Shattered and Tumbling Dice before playing Rough Justice, a song from their new album, A Bigger Bang.

The 37-city tour gives A Bigger Bang plenty of exposure. It hits U.S. stores Sept. 6, and with 16 tracks, it's their longest studio album since the 18-song Exile on Main Street in 1972. A Bigger Bang has a stripped down, back to basics sound, returning the band to its hard-driving, bluesy roots.

The tour may well test the band's stamina. The three remaining original Stones - Jagger, Richards and drummer Charlie Watts - are 62, 61 and 64 respectively. Guitarist Ron Wood, now going on 30 years touring with the band, is the baby at 58. Sixty-somethings or not, the Stones are having no trouble selling tickets, even with prices up to $400 US in some venues. In Canada, the Stones will play shows in Ottawa, Moncton, Calgary on Oct. 28, Toronto and Montreal.Courtney Couch and Ken Abele made the three-hour drive from Albany, New York. They saw it as maybe the last opportunity to see the Stones kick off a world tour - as with all of their recent tours, there's speculation this will be the last.

For Couch, 24, she also saw it as an opportunity to see the band live and remember it. The first and last time she saw the Stones play, she was six. There were plenty of examples of intergenerational Stones supporters in the crowd, like John and Mike Millette. Dad, John, 45, was looking forward to passing the torch to his 13-year-old son. "This is my seventh show and my son's first," says the elder Millette, who took a half-hour train ride into the city for the gig.


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