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Stones roll into nightclub


Toronto -- The Rolling Stones. A club gig. Enough said.

News of the Stones' impromptu jam hit the airwaves Tuesday morning, and within minutes the adrenalin kicked in, from offices in skyscrapers to construction sites and college classrooms.

The faithful dismissed the work at hand and bolted for a block-long, former warehouse on the waterfront with a facade painted in blotches of greens, blues, yellows and pinks.

For $5, about 1,000 of the lucky ones got a purple wristband and a place in the sun -- penned shoulder to shoulder for as long as 10 hours in a fenced-off area outside the RPM Club in an industrial section on Lake Ontario, waiting for the doors to open.

The Stones stunned the rock world with their surprise 90-minute, 16-song set Tuesday night -- a public warm-up before kicking off their "Voodoo Lounge" world tour Aug. 1 at RFK Stadium in Washington.

During the past month, rumors of a possible club date -- the first here since the legendary date at the El Mocambo nightclub 17 years ago -- abounded as the Stones rehearsed for the tour at a private boys' school here.

David Mallard, a 39-year-old shipping clerk, has seen the Stones play 15 stadium concerts in the past 20 years and has tickets for a "Voodoo Lounge" Toronto show. But nothing, he said, could compare to seeing them in a club.

"It's like seeing them for the first time," said a sweating Mr. Mallard, beer in one hand, his shirt in the other. "They could just come out and wave, and it would be worth it."

Outside the RPM were several hundred fans who showed up too late to get in line on Jarvis Street, a few miles from the gleaming skyscrapers in this city of 635,000. On an afternoon when temperatures climbed into the 90s and the humidity made it feel like a sauna, they danced, sang, cheered for no apparent reason, sipped sodas and devoured hot dogs sold by roadside vendors. A portable sign erected just after noon stopped more than a few motorists: "ROLLING STONES. LIVE TONIGHT. 8:30 p.m. REG. COVER $5."

Radio stations blared Stones music from huge speakers. T-shirts sold for $15 at a ferocious pace. When the show began just after 10 p.m., the fans who couldn't get what they wanted found they could get what they needed when speakers blared the show onto the streets.

Steve Dyck, a 28-year-old broker who, like many at the club, wasn't even born when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards started covering old blues masters more than three decades ago, did his best to explain the obsession. "This is still the band everybody wants to see, and the place they want to see them is a club," he said. "I'll tell my grandchildren about this. I'll tell them I saw the world's greatest rock and roll band in a club."

In the cavernous club, the Stones ripped through the set, opening "Live With Me," the song made famous in the live "Get Your Ya-Yas Out" album recorded at Madison Square Garden a quarter century ago. Mr. Jagger pranced and prowled before the pumped-up crowd.

The Stones sprinkled the show with five cuts from the newly released "Voodoo Lounge" to gauge fan response while preparing a final set list for the tour. The new songs kept the crowd moving. But it was the more familiar numbers that got the fans swaying, dancing, clapping and singing along. "Tumbling Dice," "Honky-Tonk Woman," "Street Fighting Man," "Shattered," "Rocks Off" and "Monkey Man" brought the house down.

Mr. Richards and Ron Wood played tightly and ferociously almost all night, slowing only for a bluesy "No Expectations." New bassist Darryl Jones seemed a perfect complement to drummer Charlie Watts, playing a bit more pronounced bass lines than Bill Wyman, who quit the Stones after 30 years.

Mr. Richards sang three words all night, joining in the screaming chorus to "I Go Wild."

The band closed with an encore, Al Green's "Can't Get Next to You," joined by opening act Jeff Healey. But it proved anti-climactic.

Inside the club, which is donating proceeds from Tuesday night's show to a shelter for homeless youths, fans savored being a part of rock and roll history.

Said Brenda Coleman, 37, "How often are people my age so impulsive that they drop whatever they are doing to experience something they've never dreamed they would? But here's Mick Jagger, and you realize you're going to see every wrinkle in Mick's face."

Others standing outside bemoaned the hand of fate.

Diane Harper seethed as she pointed to her fiance inside the fenced-in area. He made the cut. She didn't. She had told him about the show, then he took their car, leaving her stranded at her office.

"He's definitely in the doghouse now," said Miss Harper, 29. "If he says one word about this show, I'll punch him."

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