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Rolling Stones rock out Paris with surprise gig

PARIS -- The Rolling Stones, celebrating 50 years in rock music, gave their first concert in five years at a small Paris venue Thursday, wowing an audience who paid just 15 euros each (US$20) to see the surprise gig.

“I can't believe we're all still standing up — you'd think by now one or two of us would be sitting down, but we're not,” lead singer Mick Jagger told the small crowd at the Trabendo club in northeast Paris.

Eric, one of those who lined up for hours to grab one of the 350 tickets on offer, was very enthusiastic after the show.

“It was crazy, the audience went mad. It's extraordinary to see them in these conditions, especially at that price,” he said.

The band has announced four major concerts in Britain and the United States to mark their 50th anniversary. The Stones' last concerts were in 2007.

Guitarist Ronnie Wood had earlier hinted at a surprise, telling Britain's NME magazine that there were “going to be little club gigs that we're gonna surprise ourselves to do as well ... I don't know who we'll be billed as but we'll turn up somewhere and put a few to the test. Tiny, 200, 300 people kind of places.”

Wood said the band was on a grueling rehearsal schedule in Paris with the “nose to the grindstone.”

“We wanna give 200 percent,” he said.

The group announced via Twitter on Thursday that they would play “a short warm-up gig tonight” in Paris, with the tickets available from noon (1000 GMT) at the Virgin megastore on the emblematic Champs Elysees avenue.

But the rumors had already spread like wildfire, forcing the Virgin store to open the ticket sales two hours earlier as a huge snaking line formed outside its doors overnight Wednesday.

The 350 tickets were snapped up in minutes.

Before the concert got underway at 9 p.m., the four Stones — Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts — arrived and signed several autographs for the expectant fans.

The concert itself lasted an hour and 20 minutes, far more than the advertised 30 minutes, with the band getting the evening underway with a rousing rendition of “Route 66.”

They followed up with some of their best-loved self-penned hits, including “Start Me Up” and “Miss You” as well as “Doom and Gloom” — a track off their new 50th anniversary anthology album.

“It was extraordinary,” said former French tennis star Henri Leconte, who was in the audience. “I hope I can move as well as Mick and be as enthusiastic when I am his age,” he said of the 69-year-old front man.

Inside the venue, mobile phones, cameras, video equipment and recording devices were strictly prohibited.

A security cordon was set up around the club on Thursday morning.

After the doors closed, organizers allowed some of the disappointed fans who had failed to get a ticket to get in for free.

“I waited two hours, but I did find myself 3 meters (10 feet) from Mick Jagger. It was so great to see them in such a small venue,” said Sonia, one of the lucky fans granted last-minute entry.

There has been outrage in Britain over the steep price of the tickets for the concerts at London's 02 Arena on Nov. 25 and 29, which are up for 406 pounds (US$650) a seat on the official ticket website.

Jagger has said the four concerts will be followed by a longer string of dates, yet to be announced.

U.S. music magazine Billboard reported in August that Jagger and his bandmates will earn a total of US$25 million for the four shows.

Outside the Paris venue, some fans spoke about rumors of more possible concerts in the French capital as the veteran rockers prepare for their major shows.

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