Rolling Stones try topping Carnival in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – It takes audacity to come into the city that is home to the world’s most famous Carnival just one week before that bacchanalia begins and play any style of music other than samba. But the Rolling Stones have never lacked for swagger, and on Saturday night about one and a half million people, according to the police and other authorities, flocked to Copacabana Beach for a free concert starring Mick Jagger and company.
The prospect of seeing the Stones without having to pay market prices attracted fans from all over Brazil as well as the rest of South America and even Europe and the United States. Hotels along the beachfront were sold out, with lavish parties being thrown in some suites with ocean views as well as in private apartments, and some eager fans began camping out on the beach early in the week in hopes of securing good vantage points for the show.
“They are still the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world, better by far than U2 or Oasis or Franz Ferdinand or any of the other pretenders” who have been touring Latin America during this Southern Hemisphere summer, said Ricardo Soares Cabral, a graphic designer who had come more than 1,000 miles by bus to see the group. “This is a historic show, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
The show was billed here as the largest pop music concert ever. The Guinness Book of World Records gives that distinction to another concert here in 1994 that featured Rod Stewart and is said to have attracted 3.5 million people, but police and academic experts at a university here cast doubt on that claim, saying that Copacabana Beach does not have enough space to accommodate a crowd of that size.
The size and the exuberance of the crowd seemed to energize the band, which has been touring for months. The 20-song set was a mixture of old hits, new compositions and one Ray Charles ballad, and lasted exactly two hours.
Jagger won the crowd over early by addressing spectators largely in Portuguese, sometimes more clearly enunciated than his singing in English. He greeted the crowd with a slangy, “Good evening, gang,” in Portuguese, and later wore a T-shirt that had the green, yellow and blue Brazilian flag emblazoned on it.
Though the public did not have to pay for admission to the five-hour show, which included appearances by two popular Brazilian bands, Afro-Reggae and Os Titas, the Rolling Stones were not performing free. Two telecommunication companies were the main sponsors of the event, with the Rio de Janeiro municipal government bearing some of the infrastructure costs.
For those who could not attend, the show was broadcast throughout Brazil live on television and radio and around the rest of the world via satellite radio and the internet. Fans in the United States also had the option of watching the show at selected movie theaters around the country.
Depending on the band’s evaluation of the quality of the performance, a DVD may be issued later this year. The show was filmed by more than 50 cameras, including some mounted in helicopters or aboard boats just offshore, where numerous yachts with partying fans were anchored.
A press spokesman for the promoter of the event, Luiz Oscar Niemeyer, declined to disclose how much the group was paid or discuss any of the other financial aspects of the concert. But city officials said that their share of expenses was about $750,000 and estimated the total cost of the event at about $4.5 million.
The Rolling Stones’ interest in Brazil goes back to the late 1960s, when they visited here for the first time, as tourists. “Honky Tonk Women” was written during that stay, and Jagger later acknowledged that “Sympathy for the Devil” was the group’s attempt to write a samba, inspired by the percussion-heavy rhythms he had heard at Carnival celebrations in Bahia. Jagger also has a Brazilian son, Lucas, now 7, by a former model, Luciana Giménez, who has parlayed her association with the rock star into a career as the hostess of a television program.
She was one of several thousand local celebrities invited to watch the show from a special VIP area to the side of the stage.
Copacabana Beach has been the site of numerous large events, including an annual New Year’s Eve celebration that regularly draws more than 1 million people.
But police officials here, fearful of outbreaks of violence, panic or stampedes, said they had deployed the largest security contingent for any public event ever held here, more than 10,000 police, firemen and emergency medical personnel.
In the end, the show went off without major problems. Even firemen and security guards near the stage were dancing by the time the Stones ended the show just before midnight with “Satisfaction.”
Because so many police were on duty for the show, municipal authorities initially ordered carnival blocos, the neighborhood associations that take to the streets on the weekends leading up to Carnival to dance and sing, in areas near Copacabana to cancel their presentations on Saturday. That decision drew widespread protests, and the government eventually relented and allowed some of the clubs to parade.
By Larry Rohter
The New York Times