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10 Years Ago: The Rolling Stones Play for 1.5 Million Fans

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The sight of people frolicking on Rio De Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach is common in travel programs and movies set in Brazil. But on Feb. 18, 2006, it became the place for one of the largest rock concerts ever, with the Rolling Stones performing before an estimated crowd of 1.5 million fans on the famed stretch of sand and ocean.

“They are still the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, better by far than U2 or Oasis or Franz Ferdinand or any of the other pretenders,” fan Ricardo Soares Cabral, who traveled more than 1,000 miles by bus for the opportunity to catch the Stones, told The New York Times. “This is a historic show, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

After opening sets by Brazilian bands Afro-Reggae and Os Titas, the Stones, who were supporting A Bigger Bang, took to the stage, opening with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Their 20-song set featured four songs from A Bigger Bang: “Oh No, Not You Again,” “Rain Fall Down,” “This Place Is Empty” and “Rough Justice.” They also covered Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is the Right Time.”

The free concert was subsidized by a pair of telecommunications companies, and was shown on television throughout Brazil. It was broadcast globally on satellite radio and online, and shown in movie theaters across the Untied States.

Contrary to the Stones’ claims, it wasn’t the biggest rock concert ever. In 1994, Rod Stewart played before an announced crowd of 3.5 million fans on New Year’s Eve. But the Times article cites local experts as saying that the 2.5-mile Copacabana Beach cannot hold that many people.

More than 10,000 police, firemen and emergency professionals were on hand for the show. The Guardian wrote that only 33 robberies were reported during the concert.

In 2012, the Stones put 17 of the songs from the concert — omitting “Tumbling Dice,” “Oh No, Not You Again” and “This Place Is Empty” — on their YouTube channel, along with an 11-part documentary about the concert. You can watch it all above.

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