Band shows true mettle in the rust belt Rust belt rocks to the tune of

Rolling Stones tour: Sheffield savours a sharp act as old favourites rock back
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The Independent Online
JONATHAN FOSTER

Few symbols offer such eloquent measure of the Rolling Stones' durability than the stadium where the band's world tour yesterday arrived in Britain.

Don Valley stadium stands on the former site of the Brown Bayley steelworks and, during the 33 years since the Stones were cast in rock, the Sheffield family firm, once managed by metallurgists, has passed through the hands of accountants and into dereliction.

And the evidence from Sheffield last night was that the Stones industry is now part of rock's rust belt and all the more profitable for its dereliction. From heavy metals to service sector has been a lament the length of the valley.

Few of the 40,000 fans yesterday expected outstanding new songs from the band. The Stones' latest album, Voodoo Lounge, comprised much of their live set last night and did little to diminish the crowd's urge for them to turn back the clock.

For most, the event was a celebration of durability. They were there, they said, on a curious and affectionate trip to a big party, the same impulse which brings crowds to sing happy birthday to the Queen Mother.

Like her, Mick Jagger has looked after himself, and it was his capacity to evoke thrilling irreverence which many of the crowd cited as the reason for paying upwards of pounds 25 a ticket. The faithful see Mick on a stage 276ft wide which needs 45 tons of ballast to keep it stable. Above him leers a phallic contraption of lights and scaly joints. He is surrounded by what is described as "a cityscape" that looks more like an acid head's dream dashboard - perhaps a nod to tour sponsor Volkswagen.However, Volkswagen decided nothing was as reliable in marketing as a Stones tour, and paid pounds 6m.

Those moved by last night's experience can preserve the moment in a special Golf car, complete with Stones logo on the gearshift.

It takes 50 lorries and three 747s to shift the equipment, eight miles of cable to plug in the Stones, and 1,500 lights to punctuate music relayed by 1.5m watts of amplifier power.

They used the house public-address system plus a few 30-watt amplifiers when the Stones played the City Hall in 1965, the last time they visited Sheffield.

ROCK RICHES

The Stones will play 118 dates across Europe, with audiences averaging 60,000 a time, writes Matthew Horsman. Tickets are about pounds 25 each, while T-shirts and other items at the stadium can gross up to pounds 40,000 a night. If the whole tour is sold out, the group will make pounds 150m from ticket sales.

How much of that they will get is a sentsitive issue: sources say the tour will break even after 60 gigs.

The Stones have signed a deal with Michael Cohl, the Canadian 'T-shirt king', giving his firm the concession for merchandising.

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