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Steve Cole made the trek to a New Brunswick hillside to see the Rolling Stones before the final chapter is written in their long and legendary career.

Cole, a 30-year-old musician from Saint John, N.B., wasn't even born when Mick Jagger and the Stones began a rock and roll dynasty that has endured for more than 40 years.

On Saturday, the band came to a 40-hectare field at Magnetic Hill, N.B., to perform for the first time - and many believe the last time - in Atlantic Canada before an estimated crowd of 75,000 cheering fans.

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"It's just one of those concerts you have to go to," said Cole.

"The Stones, that's where it's at. They're legends."

By late afternoon, Magnetic Hill was so jammed with people that the concert announcer proclaimed it "the second largest city in Atlantic Canada," after Halifax.

Fans of all ages sprawled on the grass, danced, sang and guzzled beer as musical groups such as Les Trois Accords and Our Lady Peace warmed up the crowd for the final act - the Stones.

Some of the concertgoers were even older than the Stones themselves.

Helen Sweett and her husband, both in their 70s, drove from Halifax for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I've never been to an outdoor rock concert like this," she said. "I've always wanted to see what it was like. The tickets were a gift from my husband."

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Jagger, 62, hasn't said whether the Stones' "Bigger Bang" world tour is, in fact, a farewell tour.

"A good thing never ends," Jagger said during the opening performance of the tour in Boston last month.

At the Moncton show, Jagger, wearing a hot pink satin jacket, gyrated and pranced like a teenager, showing no signs of tiring.

The show opened with fireworks and flashing lights in a dazzling display that had the huge crowd screaming.

"Thank you New Brunswick," Jagger hollered to cheers.

"Where else are you from - from Newfoundland and from Nova Scotia and from Prince Edward Island."

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Dignitaries in the audience included Frank McKenna, Canada's ambassador to the United States.

McKenna, the former premier of New Brunswick, said the show will put the province and Moncton on the map.

"Fascinating, wonderful, fabulous," he said of the show.

The Bigger Bang tour will last into 2006, and it's an open question whether the elderly rockers - they're all in their 60s except for 58-year-old Ron Wood - can fight the vagaries of time and age to mount another world tour.

"Sense tells you they're getting old and who knows what will happen," said David Churchill, who travelled from St. John's, N.L., for the concert.

"I figured this was pretty close, so it's time to see them."

The outdoor concert at Magnetic Hill could prove the largest stop in the Stones' tour, and it was the largest in history for Atlantic Canada - a region often left off the tour schedules of high-profile bands.

The only other draw as big as the Stones at Magnetic Hill was Pope John Paul II in 1984.

The Stones' seven-storey-high stage dwarfed the still-standing stage where the late pope delivered his blessings.

Nearby is the strange, so-called "magnetic" hill where cars seem to coast uphill, thanks to an optical illusion. Magnetic Hill is one of New Brunswick's most popular tourist attractions.

But the fans didn't need magnets to draw them to the concert. They were there for the timeless attraction of the Stones' music.

"They're today's music," said Mark Lapierre of Dartmouth, N.S.

Organizers' prayers for good weather were answered.

Sunny skies and cool breezes kept concertgoers comfortable while sitting on the hillside, which forms a natural amphitheatre.

Earlier in the week, hurricane Katrina threatened to travel up the East Coast and ruin the concert. But the remnants of the storm in Canada produced only heavy rains that were quickly absorbed by the bone-dry ground.

"We couldn't have asked for better conditions," said concert organizer Donald K. Donald.

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