HALIFAX (CP) - At least 50,000 fans soaked up loud music and a lot of rain Saturday as the Rolling Stones headlined the largest rock concert ever held in Halifax.

The Halifax Commons, a large park in the heart of this city, was packed with fans wearing ponchos, sou'westers and garbage bags, trying to keep dry as they watched Sloan, Alice Cooper, rapper Kanye West and finally the Stones.

But the rain stopped just in time for Mick Jagger and the rest of the British rockers.

Fireworks erupted from the top of the massive 8 1/2-storey stage, which looked like the front grill of a massive car, as the band opened with "Paint It Black."

Earlier in the day it was sprinkling lightly as thousands snaked through security and onto the large inner-city park, and it continued to fall as Sloan took the stage.

The skies opened up for Alice Cooper's early evening performance, soaking the band and a live python that joined Cooper for one of his songs.

Rick and Darlene Fredette paid $500 each to watch the concert from the stage, sitting behind the bands.

It was the couple's third Stones concert - they saw the band in Moncton, N.B., last year and in Boston in 1994 - and they didn't seem to mind the wet weather.

"It would be nice to show Halifax a little better than pouring rain, but there's still a lot of smiles out here," said Rick. "How can you not want to soak it up, literally."

There were concerns that thousands of fans, a massive steal stage and dozens of tractor-trailers would chew up the Commons' sports fields.

During the concert, the area immediately in front of the stage - set up where a slow-pitch diamond once sat in one corner of the park - was full of mud.

But Rick Fredette dismissed fears that the park would be ruined in the rain.

"Halifax needs this," he said. "Obviously the Commons will suffer some, but it's grass. They can tune it up for next year."

It took more than 100 roadies about a week to set up 78 tractor-trailer loads of equipment.

Thousands of people live in the mixed residential neighbourhood that surrounds the Commons, including scores who watched the show for free from the balconies of high-rise apartments overlooking the park, or from the roof-top decks on the many Victorian-style homes nearby.

Pope John Paul II held a papal mass on the Commons in 1984, but it has never been the site of a major rock show.

Promoters have hinted more could follow if this one is a success, but with the turnout well below the 80,000 that took in a Stones' concert in Moncton, N.B., last September, it remains to be seen if that will happen.

Many people who travelled from the Halifax area to New Brunswick last year to see the legendary rockers simply didn't bother seeing them again in their backyards.

Organizers have also expressed surprise at the amount of opposition to the show, the bulk of it from those who live near the site and complained about the noise and congestion it would create.

Others felt it was inappropriate for a money-making venture to be held in a public space and that $240,000 in money from both the Nova Scotia and municipal governments was spent on extra security and post-concert cleanup.

Joe Doucette, a 54-year-old Stones fan from Dartmouth, had little patience for critics of the concert.

"I grew up in this area, five minutes from here - just get a life," said Doucette as he took cover underneath one of the grandstands between performances.

The massive outdoor concert was also a satisfying homecoming for Sloan.

It was the third time the Halifax band has opened for the Rolling Stones, and Saturday's concert was the largest they've ever played in their hometown.

Drummer Andrew Scott called it "three feathers" in the band's cap.

"It doesn't get any more rock and roll than to open for the Rolling Stones," said Scott after the band's half-hour set.

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