In a surprise turnaround, the Rolling Stones said they will play two shows in Hong Kong next month, even though the local promoters announced last week they had withdrawn their offer to the British gr

In a surprise turnaround, the Rolling Stones said they will play two shows in Hong Kong next month, even though the local promoters announced last week they had withdrawn their offer to the British group.

"We have received the deposit money from Hong Kong and the band's lawyers have a signed contract having concluded negotiations last week," Rolling Stones tour director Michael Cohl said in a statement. "This will be the first time in their 40-year history that the Rolling Stones have performed in Hong Kong and they look forward being part of the 'Harbourfest' festival."

The Hong Kong Harbour Fest, which will run every weekend from Oct. 17 through Nov. 9, is designed to relaunch the territory as a tourist destination after the economic disaster of this year's deadly SARS epidemic. It is being organized by the American Chamber of Commerce and a government-funded investment promotion unit. The Stones are scheduled to play at a 13,000-seat arena on Nov. 7 and 9.

The Rolling Stones had initially been listed on the bill when the event was announced several months ago, but their name was later removed from the festival's Web site. Last Friday, the organizers issued an unusual statement saying the band had been unable to commit to their firm offer in a timely manner. "We have, therefore, decided to withdraw our offer," they said.

Even the Rolling Stones' own Web site announced that "The Licks World tour has ended!" following their Oct. 2 show in Zurich, the final stop of their extended European leg.

The band was supposed to play two shows in Hong Kong last March, but the SARS epidemic forced it to scrap both dates as well as what would have also been their first two shows in mainland China. A band spokesperson had no information as to whether the Shanghai and Beijing stops would be rescheduled.

Other Western acts on the Harbour Fest bill include Neil Young, Prince, Westlife and Carlos Santana.


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