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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 05:37 GMT 06:37 UK
Stones 'start up' Toronto
Jagger (R) and Richards on stage in Toronto
The Stones took time out from their European tour
The Rolling Stones have headlined a massive open-air concert in Toronto to boost the Canadian city recovering from its Sars crisis.

An estimated 450,000 music fans turned out at a disused military airbase to hear Mick Jagger in a fuchsia-coloured suit let rip with "Start Me Up" and other hits.

"I think it's the biggest crowd we've ever played to, so it is a fantastic buzz," he said just before taking the stage.

Asked by reporters why the Stones and others such as AC/DC had flown to Toronto, guitarist Keith Richards grinned and rasped "because we love you".

The gig in Downsview Park was hosted by actors Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi.

"We're bringing this city back," said James Belushi.

'Sars Rock'

Apart from the Stones and AC/DC, Justin Timberlake, Rush, The Guess Who and The Flaming Lips were playing.

The fans
Fans poured into the disused airbase
The concert, dubbed Sars-stock, is being used to encourage tourism which was badly hit by the outbreak of the Sars virus, when strict travel restrictions were placed on the city.

The Canadian Government gave CAD $3.5m (US$2.5m) to concert organisers to help repair the damaged reputation of Toronto, which was the city hit hardest by the deadly disease outside of Asia.

A total of 252 people in the city were infected with the disease, of whom 38 died.

Any profits from the eight-hour, CAD $21-a-head show are to be donated to a hospital workers' relief fund and to research into the Sars virus.

Golden keys

Other acts performing included Sam Roberts, the Isley Brothers and Blue Rodeo.

Dan Aykroyd - one of the original "Blues Brothers" and a Canadian - was performing with Belushi the musical revue Have Love Will Travel, which showcases blues, rock and swing.

The Stones were taking time out from their European tour to take part in the event.

The band members arrived in Toronto on Monday, where they were presented with golden "keys to the city" by Mayor Mel Lastman.

The British band were forced to call off gigs in China and Hong Kong following the Sars outbreak earlier in the year.

This is the second concert to be staged in Toronto to combat the slump in tourism after Canadians Avril Lavigne and Diana Krall played to 70,000 fans in June.

Toronto gets Sars all-clear
02 Jul 03  |  Americas
Prague party for Jagger's 60th
27 Jul 03  |  Music
Q&A: Sars
20 Apr 03  |  Health

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