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Jagger back on stage after ‘heart operation’

Ron Wood (left), and Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, perform during the ‘No Filter’ tour at Soldier Field on June 21 in Chicago. (AP)

Mercury back in ‘Time’

CHICAGO, June 22, (Agencies): Mick Jagger swaggered back to the stage on Friday in his first concert after undergoing heart surgery in April as the Rolling Stones kicked off a delayed North American tour.

The veteran British band opened its No Filter tour in Chicago at the city’s 61,500 seat Soldier Field stadium, after delaying the 17-date US and Canada tour to allow for Jagger’s medical treatment.

Opening to a sold-out crowd, the band kicked off with its classic hit “Street Fighting Man” as the Stones frontman, dressed in skinny black jeans and a black and white jacket, strutted across the stage, singing and pumping his fist.

Jagger, 75, underwent heart valve replacement surgery in New York in early April, and in May reassured fans that he was back in shape by posting video on Twitter of him dancing in a studio.

“He (Jagger) went through it very easily,” Stones guitarist Keith Richards told the Toronto Sun in an interview ahead of the Chicago concert. “He’s in great shape – rocking. As I say, it seemed to be no problem at all really.”

The 1960s band, whose current members Jagger, Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are now all in their 70s, has played more than 40 tours, making the quartet some of the most enduring and successful rock musicians of all time.

The Rolling Stones kicked off the No Filter tour in Europe in September 2017, playing the last show there in July 2018.

The tour grossed $116 million in 2018, according to touring industry publication Pollstar, making it the 10th biggest worldwide last year.

The 75-year-old frontman ran and skipped along a narrow stage that jutted out into the crowd. It was his first major concert performance since doctors told him just three months ago he required medical treatment and needed to postpone the tour.

The band, formed more than 50 years ago, opened with “Street Fighting Man” followed by “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.

“It’s great to be back at Soldier Field – for the eighth time,” Jagger said before launching into the third song, “Tumbling Dice”.

All the Stones are now in their 70s. Guitarist Keith Richards is also 75. Ronnie Wood, who plays guitar as well, is 72. Drummer Charlie Watts is the senior member at 78.

The No Filter Tour was slated to start April 20 in Miami before doctors told Jagger in late March he required treatment, reportedly for a heart valve issue. Jagger tweeted at the time: “I’m devastated for having to postpone the tour but I will be working very hard to be back on stage as soon as I can.”

A stripped-back version of Freddie Mercury performing the song “Time” is released on Thursday, the result of a long search for the 1986 recording made at London’s Abbey Road Studios.

Accompanied by just a piano, the late Queen frontman sings a simpler version of the track he recorded as a solo artist with British musician, songwriter and producer Dave Clark for the “Time” concept album of the London musical of the same name.

The new version, released under its full title “Time Waits For No One”, provides a moving rendition of the song about not knowing what is around the corner.

Mercury died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991. “It’s just Freddie and piano and it really shows what an amazing performer, an amazing range he had,” Clark, who found the recording after years of searching, told Reuters.

“It gave me goosebumps because it’s the way he performs it, like he tastes every word.”

Clark, who led the Dave Clark Five band in the 1960s, worked with various singers for “Time” the album. Mercury sang two songs, the title track and “In My Defence”, recorded in 1985.

When he joined Clark again at Abbey Road Studios in January 1986, the session recorded 48 tracks of backing vocals for “Time”. The final version ended up with 96 tracks.

But Clark said he always remembered that first rehearsal of Mercury singing alongside keyboardist Mike Moran on the piano.

“I kept thinking about it,” he said. “A decade after, I felt I’d love to hear the original and I went back and I couldn’t find it because it was 96 tracks.”

“A few years later I got my engineer to go down and go through everything, we couldn’t find it … Then at the end of 2017, we gave another try and we found it, which was wonderful.”

The song’s video was recorded in a four-camera shoot in 1986, and the original 35mm film was put away. Clark, 76, restored the negatives to add video for this version and brought in Moran to record a new piano track.

“This is about a celebration of Freddie, what an amazing contribution he did to our music industry,” he said of Thursday’s release. On working with Mercury, Clark said the star preferred recording in the evening, going “100 miles an hour”. A 1986 interview shows Clark and Mercury discussing the song, with Mercury saying he wanted to put his stamp on it.

“When we first met he said, ‘But how can I do this song?’ and I said to him, ‘I want a cross between Edith Piaf, Jennifer Holliday and Shirley Bassey’,” Clark says in the interview. Mercury then replies: “I said ‘David, I have all their dresses, I can do it perfectly’.”

Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity.

In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman”, John spoke candidly about the “privilege” of being a gay entertainer.

“Just be yourself,” says the legendary singer-songwriter-pianist, dressed in a custom powder blue Gucci suit and matching bedazzled rhinestone glasses. “Don’t let anybody do you down. I’ve been very privileged because I’m in a business that kind of accepts gay people. There are kids that aren’t privileged. They come from poor backgrounds. Their parents don’t understand; religion gives them a hard time.”

Long before there was Ellen DeGeneres, “Will & Grace” and “Pose”, there was Elton John. The singer was 29 years old and an international superstar when he told Rolling Stone in 1976 that he was bisexual. But in 1992, at age 45, he was quoted in the same magazine saying he was “quite comfortable being gay.”

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