The Rolling Stones have rocked Havana, playing to tens of thousands in the Cuban capital, where most foreign rock music was banned for several decades. Many of those at the free concert were lifelong fans who for years had to keep quiet about their love of the Stones and other groups.
Mick Jagger welcomed fans in Spanish before opening the performance with the 1968 hit Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The concert comes days after a historic visit by US President Barack Obama. Tens of thousands of Cubans queued for hours to get into the grounds of Havana’s huge 450,000-capacity Ciudad Deportiva venue.
The band swept through 18 songs in a two-hour gig, including Sympathy for the Devil and Satisfaction.
The gig is being seen as another sign of real change on the island. Until about 15 years ago Cuba’s communist government banned most Western rock and pop music, which was deemed decadent and subversive.
The band released a short video saying their concert was a sign of change in Cuba. “Time changes everything. So we’re very pleased to be here,” said Mick Jagger. “It would have been surprising for this to happen 10 years ago.”
Britain’s Mirror newspaper has reported that the concert went ahead despite a request from Pope Francis that it be halted because it fell on Good Friday. The paper said the Vatican had suggested the band could start after midnight. It quoted a “tour insider” as saying: “The band’s team were flabbergasted when the Vatican got in touch by letter – couldn’t believe their eyes.
“Much as they didn’t want to upset the Pope, they had a contract to play and were going to honour it.”