Halifax preps for Stones concert
HALIFAX (CP) – From her perch overlooking the Halifax Commons, Norma Boggs can see a beehive of roadies slaving over a tangle of rising steel. For days, Boggs has watched from her eighth-floor apartment balcony as preparations for the biggest rock concert in the city’s history have gone on below.
On Saturday night, up to 60,000 people are expected to gather on the Commons to see the legendary Rolling Stones and three other acts perform.
“I never thought they would ever play here, let alone practically in my backyard,” said Boggs, who will watch the show with family and friends from her balcony across from the park.
“We were out there with binoculars today watching them set up. It’s like a small city being built out there.”
For the past week, about 100 roadies have unloaded 78 tractor-trailer loads of equipment, including an 8 1/2-storey stage being erected by four heavy-lift cranes.
The Commons, a sprawling recreational greenspace in the heart of Halifax, isn’t your typical setting for a large, loud rock show.
Thousands of people live in the Victorian-style homes and high-rise apartments ringing the park, or on surrounding tree-lined streets.
Many have complained about the congestion and noise the concert will produce.
Others worry that 60,000 pairs of feet and thousands of tonnes of equipment will destroy the Commons’ verdant sports fields, especially if it rains.
Jill Ceccolini likes the Stones and even travelled to Toronto in the 1990s to see them. But she isn’t thrilled to see them again in what amounts to her front yard.
“This is a mixed residential neighbourhood of homeowners, businesses and people who are renting,” she said. “Having this kind of event going on across the street really impacts our lives.”
Ceccolini and her family live in a house almost directly behind the massive stage. For days, they’ve listened to the hum of generators and round-the-clock construction work.
But more than that, Ceccolini has a philosophical problem with a public space being used for a money-making venture.
“I love that about the Commons,” she said. “It’s not for any one group of people and people don’t need to pay to use it.”
By contrast, newspaper columnist Marilla Stephenson said she’s glad the Stones are coming to town.
“If all the groaners, whiners and complainers don’t stop trying to make this city as dead as the people in the historic graveyards, there’s going to be no future for this city,” said Stephenson, who writes for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.
“Any time someone tries to do something here, people seem to line up and put their hands out for compensation after complaining. I get pretty fed up with it. It’s really starting to hold this city back.”
In 1984, about 30,000 people stood in driving rain as Pope John Paul II held at papal mass on the Commons.
But there has never been a rock concert on the site and organizers are hinting more could follow if this one is a hit.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful site,” Ken Craig of Donald K. Donald, the show’s Montreal promoter, told the Halifax Daily News. “The whole industry is seeing how this show goes because it’s a new site.”
The Nova Scotia and municipal governments are forking over $240,000 to help pay for the concert, which will include performances by rapper Kanye West, shock-rocker Alice Cooper and alt-rockers Sloan.
The money will help cover the cost of extra policing that night and to repair any damage.
Joan Massey, the provincial NDP’s tourism critic, believes the money would be better spent elsewhere.
“The government increased tourism funding by just $388,000 in the summer budget and has blown a large chunk of that on cleaning up after the Rolling Stones – some of the richest musicians in the world,” she said.
For Boggs, though, it’s all about the thrill of seeing a band that typically shuns smaller places like Halifax.
“It’s only one day, right? Then everything is back to normal,” she said of the inconvenience.
“I’ve never seen them in person and I never thought I ever would, so this is quite a treat.”
Halifax preps for Stones concert