Rolling Stones tell giant crowd 'times are changing' at Cuba debut

Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:49am EDT
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By Daniel Trotta and Frank Jack Daniel

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones rocked a massive crowd at a free, outdoor concert in Havana on Friday, capping a week of engagement with the West for the Communist-led country that once censored the veteran British band's music.

The Stones started their first-ever show in Cuba with "Jumpin' Jack Flash," a song recorded in 1968, when Cuban rock fans were secretly sharing pirated vinyl records and risked being sent to rural work brigades to cure "ideological deviation."

"We know that years back it was hard to hear our music in Cuba, but here we are playing. I also think the times are changing," lead singer Mick Jagger said in Spanish to a roar from the crowd.

The singer spoke in Spanish throughout of the 18-song show of hits that lasted more than two hours. The band played "Sympathy for the Devil" as a yellow moon rose through clouds, and they finished a two-song encore with "Satisfaction."

Fans started gathering 18 hours ahead of time at Havana's Sports City football and baseball fields, including Cubans who traveled from across the Caribbean's largest island and foreigners who flew in for the occasion.

While no official estimate was immediately available for the crowd size, Cuban state media estimated half a million people could fit in the venue, which was nearly full.

The audience ranged from teenagers to pensioners and reserved some of the biggest cheers for Jagger's snakey dance moves.

"I love Mick Jagger so much. I've always dreamed about this. I couldn't sleep knowing he would be here," said Angela Menendez, who cleans floors in a hospital.   Continued...

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performs a free outdoor concert at Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana sports complex  in Havana, Cuba March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini