INDEPTH: SARS BENEFIT CONCERT|
Scott Utting, CBC News Online | July 30, 2003
9:30 a.m. ET
Via maintenance yard in Mimico. We're official, along with dozens of other media. It's getting hot already.
Tea Party just arrived in a white limo. Artists and crew — Sass Jordan and Sam Roberts too — get to board first.
11:16 a.m. ET
Getting off the train, we were bused to the backstage area. Saw rivers of people streaming into the grounds — thousands more waiting at the gates to get through security. Huge crowds. We all talked about it for the past few weeks, but it's still amazing when you see it.
12:43 p.m. ET
The crowd is enormous, and it's a moving animal. It's obvious that people will continue to arrive for quite a while. Amid the crowd are entire families and what could pass for a small hippie commune. Speaking of which, the smell of burning marijuana sometimes wafts through the air.
It's a hot and hazy day, and some people are hoarding water. Many are walking through the crowd with cases of bottled water. The main seating area is packed already with thousands of people. Others are hanging out on the periphery, looking for what shade is available on an airfield.
Four premiers (Ralph Klein, Lorne Calvert, Gary Doer and Ernie Eves) attracted a big crowd at the hotel workers' fundraiser, along with Paul Martin, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief, Health Minister Anne McLellan and a bunch of other MPs.
A large group from Alberta, in "Team Calgary" getups, accompanied the premiers. They were handing out tattoos promoting beef.
3:16 p.m. ET
Sam Roberts says he's never been more nervous since his early violin recitals. "Then honestly, it's like any other show," the Montreal rocker told reporters following his performance. "We felt really good."
Those initial moments are what Roberts said he thought would be burned most deeply into his memory.
Roberts said he has never been involved in an event of this size, not even as a spectator. "Just being here is something I never thought I'd have a chance to do."
He also said he believes an event like this would be very effective in telling the world that Toronto is safe. "If Mick Jagger stands up and says it, people listen."
On the other hand, Kathleen Edwards had a much more sardonic take on the event. "Really dull," was her initial joking assessment. "I'm looking forward to playing a real show."
She added it was "fantastic" to play before such a huge crowd, but commented that it was "unfortunate that more money wasn't going toward the charities."
She also said she wasn't performing to promote any other issue than promoting Toronto.
4:37 p.m. ET
In case anyone thought the Stones were the longest serving band in Toronto today, the Isley Brothers wrapped up their set with their hit song Shout, which was written in 1959.
The food concessions are doing great business - lineups like crazy. Peter Paulowski, at the Heart of Dixie barbecue pit, says it's getting better as the day goes on.
The toilets don't seem to be a problem. I've seen some lineups, but not very long. In most areas, you can find a free one and just walk in. They are pretty clean, too - for portable toilets, anyway. And for now. I found a crew sucking them out, spraying them down and refilling the paper. They told me they'll be making the rounds all day.
5:00 p.m. ET
The loudest thing so far on the day was the specially painted CF18 that just flew over.
5:30 p.m. ET
Water, water, everywhere, and everyone encouraged to drink.
It�s standard procedure at these large outdoor events to spray down the crowd from the front of the stage.
There are also large sprinklers creating areas of mist where people have been gathering to cool off. I overheard one young woman tell a friend, �This is the best f-ing part of this day.�
Between acts, the screens are showing short public service announcements with people such as Sass Jordan encouraging people to drink lots of water. Mike Bullard has been doing the same thing with a live mike.
It appears to be working, as the grounds are littered with empty plastic water bottles. It�s hard to walk 10 metres without kicking one.
5:58 p.m. ET
This is not a crowd for Justin Timberlake.
The crowd pelted the stage with water bottles, bran muffins and other objects during his set. "I almost got creamed," said CBC.ca photographer Dwight Friesen. Several photographers came backstage with similar accounts.
8 p.m. ET
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger says there�s a �great buzz� at the concert, that �there�s nothing like it.�
�I think it�s the biggest crowd we�ve ever played for,� he said.
At the same news conference, he said he wasn�t writing history. �It�s going to be a big day.�
Guitarist Keith Richards said the band agreed to perform at the concert �because we love you.�
Earlier, Justin Timberlake said he wasn�t offended by the projectiles fired at him from the crowd. �It�s natural,� he said. �If I came to see AC/DC, I wouldn�t want to see me, either.�
Timberlake was more willing to assess the historical dimensions than Jagger. �What�s happened today is a landmark,� he said.
�This is the biggest crowd I�ve ever seen in my life. It really doesn�t get any better for me.�
He can take solace in knowing he has sold out shows at the Air Canada Centre, and that Jagger himself checked out his set.
8:15 p.m. ET
AC/DC is on stage, which means the Stones are next. The crowd simply sounds enormous. Burton Cummings said the "horizon meets the crowd" when seen from the stage.
"It looks great on Toronto, it looks great on Canada," he said. Toronto is a world-class city, Cummings said, comparing it to London, San Fransisco, New York, Rome and Paris.
8:35 p.m. ET
Lead guitarist Angus Young his trademark schoolboy shorts uniform and singer Brian Johnson in his omnipresent cap, AC/DC is rocking the crowd with a selection of songs spanning the band�s catalogue including Back in Black, If You Want Blood (You Got It), Thunderstruck, Hell�s Bells.
8:43 p.m. ET
AC/DC guitar player Angus Young, during the band's performance of its song The Jack, stripped down to his shorts, and made like he was going to moon the crowd. Dropping his drawers, he revealed a pair of Maple Leaf boxer shorts.
9:15 p.m. ET
There might be only one band in the world that can follow the performance AC/DC put on. The crowd grew louder with each tune in the band�s set, which wrapped up with Let There Be Rock and Highway to Hell. All that�s left is to see the Stones and begin the long trek home. I wonder if anyone's leaving early.
10:02 p.m. ET
After 10 hours of warm up acts, a well-primed crowd of almost half a million exploded as the first chords of the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up rang out from Keith Richards' guitar.
The band that was the cornerstone of this SARS concert was greeted with a thunderous noise by the largest crowd they've ever played to.
10:46 p.m. ET
Stones set list:
Start Me Up
You Got Me Rockin'
You Can't Always Get What You Want
It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)
Miss You (with Justin Timberlake)
The Nearness of You
Keith Richards sang this number, written by Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael and recorded by Carmichael in 1927.
Happy (Keith singing)
Sympathy for the Devil
Rock Me Baby (with Angus Young and Malcolm Young of AC/DC)
Honkey Tonk Woman
Mick: "We always feel welcome in Toronto even when some of us are under arrest."
Far from looking like they're on a several-thousand-kilometre detour on their European tour, the band looks energized by the crowd. Their guitar-based sound complemented by a brass section.
11:39 p.m. ET
encore: Jumpin' Jack Flash
Mick came back out on stage with a sleeveless shirt emblazoned with the Stones' lips and tongue logo and the word "Toronto".
11:45 p.m. ET
A five-minute fireworks display and that's it. The much-rumoured surprise appearances never materialized - no Bono, no McCartney. But by the sounds of the crowd, few are going home to complain.