The Stones rock Halifax
HALIFAX – In a shower of raindrops and red fireworks, the Rolling Stones took to the Commons stage for their Halifax debut Saturday night.
“Good evening Halifax!” Mick Jagger yelled to the crowd of close to 50,000 screaming fans.
Dressed in an ankle-length metallic trench coat and matching brimmed hat, Mick gyrated his bony hips ó much to the pleasure of the females in the crowd ó as he belted out Paint It Black.
“Itís happy time now, baby!” one man screamed, pumping his fists in the air. “Weíre at a Rolling Stones concert!”
He repeated the phrase again and again during the Stones two-hour set, overwhelmed by how close he was to his rock idols.
“I canít believe weíre here! Thatís the Rolling Stones!” he shouted, a goofy grin on his face as he pointed at the flashing eight-storey stage.
The manís mood was contagious, sweeping through the slicker-swathed crowd that braved the cool, wet weather to see Mick and the boys, along with opening acts Sloan, Alice Cooper and Kanye West.
Several people managed to sneak in umbrellas, while most huddled together under tarps or the dripping hoods of their raincoats ó or even green garbage bags.
Although the Stones were clearly the crowd favourite, rapper Kanye West had many fans throwing their diamonds in the sky during his 45-minutes set.
As he opened with Diamonds Are Forever, the younger fans swayed to the thumping beat, their fingers pressed together to form the shape of diamonds.
“Itís just like Woodstock,” one man said of the concert atmosphere and wide range of music.
And in many ways it was. Amid the clouds of cigarette smoke and rockiní tunes, the smell of marijuana hung heavy in the wet air and empty plastic baggies littered the muddy ground.
The streets surrounding the Commons were blanketed with police officers dressed in orange rainsuits, and private security guards roamed the grounds ó but many fans still found ways to sneak in restricted items, including drugs, cameras and alcohol.
One young woman admitted she and her friends went so far as to bury several bottles of liquor near the fountain more than a week before the concert and planned to dig them up once they got inside.
But police were ready for anything, it seemed ó although they had little to deal with.
“Everything is fine,” Staff Sgt. Joe Collins of Halifax Regional Police said at 11 p.m. “The ferries are packed full; mass transit is working wonderful. I just drove through the downtown core, and itís virtually empty.”
He said he figured the weather was to thank for the tame crowds.
“Considering the number of people, the amount of alcohol and other substances, itís been very, very good,” he said.
Paramedics at the concert site were somewhat busier, but they didnít face anything they werenít expecting, a spokesman for Emergency Health Services said.
“A lot of headaches, a little bit of nausea, people passing out here and there, but nothing overly serious,” operations supervisor Jonathon Pippy said at about 7 p.m.
A few hours later there were reports that an unconscious woman was taken away by ambulance, but her condition was not believed to be serious. Sources said another young woman slipped on the sidewalk outside the site and broke her arm.
Scott Ferguson, executive vice-president of Trade Centre Ltd., said thereís no doubt the concert was a success.
“It went fabulous, actually ó it was quite an amazing night,” he said at about 10:45 p.m. Saturday. “There was probably close to 50,000 people here, and for the most part they were all dressed for the evening and having a great time.”
He said the next step is for the concert organizers to sit down and discuss what they can do to make the next time even better ó and there will be a next time, he said confidently.
“Weíve proven that the site is a top concert site and can certainly accommodate many more people,” Mr. Ferguson said.
But the sobering question earlier in the day was this: What was the traffic like on peninsular Halifax on a day when metro mirrored a major metropolis and actually had more than one big event on tap?
Pretty smooth, as it turned out.
Talk about a fiesta of fun ó the Rolling Stones, a National Hockey League exhibition game, homecoming weekend at Saint Maryís University, the closing night gala for the Atlantic Film Festival, a Sarah Harmer performance at Dalhousie University, Neptune Theatreís production of A Few Good Men, four cruise ships scheduled to be in port ó events that obviously required a lot of people-moving in and around the cityís central district.
A survey of potential traffic hot spots, done on a bicycle by The Chronicle Herald, showed the peninsula was busy in some areas. But it seemed many concert-goers took note of the advance message about public transit ó and used it. Metro Transit buses appeared to be doing a brisk business.
At the Halifax Commons concert site, there was a bit of a traffic buzz ó albeit the pedestrian variety ó as early as 11:30 a.m., because general-admission ticket holders wanted to be there the moment the gates opened at 1 p.m. to grab a premium spot near the stage. Streets by the concert site were well staffed by Halifax Regional Police.
The Stones rock Halifax