TORONTO — All things considered, guitarist Ronnie Wood says the Rolling Stones count themselves pretty fortunate these days.
It’s only been a few months since lead singer Mick Jagger was rushed into heart surgery, throwing their North American tour into turmoil, and the band is already back in concert mode.
“We thank our lucky stars,” the British rocker said ahead of their only Canadian tour stop on June 29.
“This was certainly a swerve — a left-hand ball — for us. We weren’t ready for this.”
News of Jagger’s surgery blindsided his bandmates shortly after they started rehearsals in Miami earlier this year.
“He called us to his room, we knew it was something serious,” Wood recalled. “I think he needed a bit of support, which we gave him.”
Doctors ordered Jagger to hang up his microphone, at least temporarily, to undergo medical treatment. At 75, nothing was certain about how quickly he would recover.
Wood, 72, says the band was “all gobsmacked” by the developments, but they rallied around Jagger before going their separate ways while he prepared for surgery.
Keith Richards collected his family and joined Wood and his wife and children in Turks and Caicos to “get over the shock.”
“We just tried to stay positive and wait until the surgery had been done,” Wood says.
“When we got a big thumbs up from that, and from Mick, we breathed a sigh of relief and were able to carry on with our lives again.”
Luckily for fans, concert stops for the Stones’ No Filter Tour went mostly unaffected, including that sweet date on Canada Day weekend.
Wood is confident the band’s renewed thirst to perform will translate to the outdoor stage at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ont., about 30 kilometres north of Barrie.
“We’ll step up to the bar, I hope,” he says. “The way rehearsals were sounding… we’re ready. We just need an audience now.”
They’ve been testing out a secondary stage where the band will migrate for an acoustic set that features “Play with Fire” and “Sweet Virginia,” Wood said.
“We’ll suddenly be among the people who thought they had bad seats,” he joked. “We’ll be revisiting songs from way back when, which I’m really excited about.”
Several Canadian acts will support the Stones, with homegrown rock bands filling a daylong bill that includes the Glorious Sons from Kingston, Ont., Toronto four-piece the Beaches, and longtime favourites Sloan.
But don’t expect Wood to take advantage of Canada’s legal cannabis while he’s in town. He says he “wasn’t into that” back in the day, and certainly isn’t now.
“Actually, I’m in my 10th year of being clean,” he says.
“Doctor’s orders only, I’d say.”
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David Friend, The Canadian Press