Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba: Rolling Stones rock Havana with landmark gig

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Media captionThe Rolling Stones opened the show in Havana with Jumpin' Jack Flash

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.

'Time changes everything'

Tens of thousands of Cubans queued for hours to get into the grounds of Havana's huge 450,000-capacity Ciudad Deportiva venue.

"Hello, Havana. Good evening, my people of Cuba," said Jagger before beginning the eagerly awaited performance.

The band swept through 18 songs in a two-hour gig, including Sympathy for the Devil and Satisfaction.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jagger greeted fans in Spanish

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.

But Cuba has changed significantly in recent years, particularly in the past 18 months as the process of rapprochement with the United States has quickened, says the BBC's Will Grant in Havana.

Fans travelled from many parts of Cuba and other countries to witness what some described as a historic moment.

"It was forbidden. We couldn't have the Beatles or some singers from Latin America. Now we are allowed to hear what we want to hear," a fan told the BBC.

"The visit from Obama [earlier this week], and now the Rolling Stones. It's just unique and historic. So, yeah, nice to be here," said another one.

"After today I can die," Joaquin Ortiz, a 62-year-old night watchman, told the Associated Press. "This is like my last wish, seeing the Rolling Stones."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Guitarist Keith Richards joined Jagger and the rest of the band for the show

The Rolling Stones 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."

Cuban authorities said they expected at least half a million people to watch the British band's first concert in Cuba.

The Set List

Image copyright Getty Images

Jumpin' Jack Flash

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)

Tumbling Dice

Out of Control

All Down the Line


Paint It Black

Honky Tonk Women

You Got the Silver

Before They Make Me Run

Midnight Rambler

Miss You

Gimme Shelter

Start Me Up

Sympathy for the Devil

Brown Sugar

Encores: You Can't Always Get What You Want. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

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."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police said before the show that they were expecting up to half a million people at the free concert
Image copyright AP
Image caption Fans travelled from across Cuba and abroad for the concert

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