Tuesday 23 January 2018

Satisfaction at last as the Stones finally play in Cuba

Grey power: The 72-year-old Keith Richards in Havana Photo: AP Photo/Enric Marti
Grey power: The 72-year-old Keith Richards in Havana Photo: AP Photo/Enric Marti

Harriet Alexander

It was 1962: in London a group of young musicians hastily named The Rolling Stones took to the stage for the first time. A little later that same year, the leader of another group of young revolutionaries also stood up in public, as Fidel Castro pronounced rock 'n roll "the music of the enemy".

And yet on Friday, in a night which many Cubans had never dared dream would be possible, the sounds that were once banned from the airways became the beating heart of Castro's Cuba, echoing for miles across the capital.

"Good evening Havana! Finally we're here," said Mick Jagger, speaking in theatrical, exaggerated Spanish to half a million people at by far the biggest ever concert to take place on the Caribbean island.

"We know that in years gone by it was difficult to listen to our music here in Cuba. But we are here!" he said. "Playing for you. And we think that finally times are changing. It's the truth, right?" Three days before the show Barack Obama, making the first visit to Cuba by a US president in almost 90 years, joked that his trip was but a warm-up for the band.

Certainly the free gig had an epic, history-making feel to it.

A-listers Naomi Campbell and Richard Gere filed in as the sun set, and the show opened to a colour-explosion video featuring 1950s cars, cigars and Carmen Miranda- style salsa dancers.

Keith Richards, beaming in a green silk bomber jacket and bandana at 72, remarked with wonder: "Obama. Cuba. We're so happy to be here."

And it showed. Richards and Ronnie Wood, in lurid tropical hues, couldn't hide their delight, grinning like naughty schoolboys throughout the wildly energetic two-hour set.

Opening with Jumpin' Jack Flash, a sequin-clad Jagger was at his strutting, preening, swivelling finest.

Despite there being no advance advertising - the only posters you see in Cuba feature Guevara or Castro promoting the wonders of socialism - hundreds of thousands swarmed onto the grass on the outskirts of Havana, chattering excitedly about Los Rolling.

One man was seen in a homemade Stones t-shirt depicting Jagger as Guevara.

"Until they took to the stage, I kept on telling myself it was just a dream," said David Yaco (62), who spent much of the 70s, 80s and 90s being harassed by the police just for listening to music.

"The idea of them actually playing here… It's surreal."


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