HAVANA (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones will perform a free outdoor concert in Havana on March 25, the band announced on Tuesday, a milestone event in a country where the communist government once banned the group’s music as an “ideological deviation.”
The band added the Concert for Amity show - likely to be the biggest rock concert ever staged in Cuba - to a Latin American tour that had been due to end on March 17 in Mexico City.
The performance will come three days after U.S. President Barack Obama is due to conclude a visit to Cuba, the first by an American president since 1928. Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December 2014 they would seek to normalize relations after more than half a century of Cold War animosity.
The concert, which will be filmed, is set to take place on fields surrounding Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva, a 26-hectare (64-acre) sports complex. It will mark the first open-air concert in Cuba by a British rock band, the group said.
“We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too,” the band said in a statement accompanied by an image of its four current members - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood.
After the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro, Raul’s brother, to power the Caribbean nation censured the group formed in London in 1962, as well as the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
Fidel Castro ultimately lamented the music censorship and attended the unveiling of a statue of late former Beatle John Lennon in a Havana park on the 20th anniversary of his death on Dec. 8, 2000.
“I very much regret not having known you before,” Castro said during the ceremony.
At the statue on Tuesday, tour guide Julio Garcia reacted with joy to the news of the Stones’ visit, which was filtering out slowly on the island.
“Los Rolling in Cuba? Wow!” he said. “We have been waiting for them here for many years.”
Armando Gonzalez, 57, drove up in a blue and white Chevrolet built in 1954, before either the revolution or the Rolling Stones had tasted success.
“Their music has no borders,” he said. “Now there is an opening and we will be able to enjoy them fully.”
Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott