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article imageRolling Stones thrill Cuba with free two-hour Havana concert

By Nathan Salant     Mar 26, 2016 in Music
Havana - Rock-and-roll icons the Rolling Stones rocked Havana, Cuba, on Friday with a free concert in the city's Sports City complex.
The show, before hundreds of thousands of fans, was particularly poignant just days after U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Havana, since the British band's music was banned in Cuba in the 1960s.
"We know that years back it was hard to hear our music in Cuba but here we are, playing," singer Mick Jagger said in Spanish as the crowd roared.
"I also think the times are changing," he said, according to the Reuters news service.
The concert was played on an outdoor field that was estimated to fit about 500,000 people at a sports complex that predates Cuba's revolution, and a crowd that ranged in age from teens to pensioners filled nearly every available place..
The Stones played 18 songs in more than two hours, starting with a 1968 hit, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," that was recorded when Cubans risked being sent to re-education work camps if they were caught with the band's records.
The moon was rising when the band launched into "Sympathy for the Devil," and the performance ended with a two-song encore that culminated with the Stones' most-famous song, "Satisfaction."
"I love Mick Jagger so much -- I've always dreamed about this," Angela Menendez, a hospital orderly, told Reuters.
"I couldn't sleep knowing he would be here," she said.
There was no heavy security presence, and a notable lack of memorabilia vendors, Reuters said.
The band itself did not even exist when rebels led by Fidel Castro overthrew the island nation's U.S.-backed government in 1959, setting off decades of animosity between two countries just 90 miles apart.
The Stones formed in London in 1962, Reuters said, but their music was quickly barred as subversive by Cuban authorities.
"Don't let anybody tell you different, this is the best concert in the history of Cuba," said 18-year-old Cristian, who said he had seen a free electronic music show performed by Major Lazer earlier in March.
But the event was even more meaningful for Juan Carlos Leon, 57.
"To me, this is a consecration -- I've waited my whole life for this," Leon said.
"The Stones are the greatest," he said.
The performance highlighted a memorable week in Cuba, as a sitting U.S. president visited for the first time since Fidel Castro seized power and his brother, Raul Castro, the current president, promised that any remaining political prisoners would be released from prison.
The United States and Cuba began normalizing trade relations in 2014 and exchanged ambassadors in July for the first time in more than 50 years.
More about Cuba, Rolling stones, Rock and Roll, Castro, United States
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