The indestructible Keith Richards is back

By Matthew Beard
Wednesday 01 April 2009 15:45

It is said the only two things to survive a nuclear war would be cockroaches and Keith Richards.

So it was little surprise that the hardy Rolling Stones guitarist, who recently underwent brain surgery after falling out of a tree, showed no ill effects when the band kicked off their latest European tour in Italy.

The Stones, who have a a combined age of 248, had been forced to delay the "Bigger Bang Tour" by a month because of Richards' accident.

But Mick Jagger made light of the incident as the band played in front of 70,000 fans at the San Siro football stadium, which is the home of AC Milan, on Tuesday night.

Jagger congratulated the crowd on Italy's weekend victory in the World Cup, and two of the winning squad - Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Del Piero - were invited on to the stage at the end of the two-hour show.

Referring to Richards' accident and the infamous head-butting incident involving Materazzi and the French player Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final, Jagger, speaking in Italian, said: "Materazzi and Richards have something in common tonight; they both recently had head-related problems."

The crowd waved thousands of Italian flags as the Stones performed many of their old classics and some newer material. Richards was the first to take to the stage, wearing his trademark headband and a shirt open at the chest. The night began with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and ended with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", and, apart from short mini-breaks between songs, the ageing rockers showed few signs of slowing.

Since the 2005 release of their latest album A Bigger Bang, the Rolling Stones have performed on three continents before a combined total of 4.5 million fans, according to their tour director.

Their biggest show was at Copacabana Beach, where they played before 1.5 million people, and they also performed in Beijing for the first time.

During the break for Richards' recovery, his fellow guitarist Ron Wood, 59, also checked into a London rehabilitation clinic last month for treatment for alcohol abuse, but both men said on Monday they were feeling good and ready to get back on the touring bandwagon.

Richards, 62, also disclosed this week that his brain injury had not been sustained by falling out of a coconut tree but from a large shrub. It had originally been reported that the guitarist needed surgery after a tumble from a large palm while picking coconuts on holiday in Fiji.

Richards said at a press conference to kick off the delayed European leg of the Stones' world tour: "If you saw the tree you would realise the joke. This was just a very little tree."

He indicated that the tree was about 5ft high.

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