Coming two days after Barack Obama finished the first trip to Cuba by a US president in nearly 90 years, Friday night’s free gig in Havana cemented the communist-run island’s opening to the world.
The veteran rockers 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,” singer Mick Jagger said to a roar from the crowd.
Jagger spoke in Spanish throughout of the 18-song show of hits that lasted more than two hours.
The band posted the set list on their official Twitter page, revealing the hits they performed for the crowd.
It included Out of Control, Angie, 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 and Brown Sugar, as well as All Down The Line, which was chosen by fans on social media. They finished a two-song encore with Satisfaction.
Security was low-key at Ciudad Deportiva stadium and there was a noticeable absence of would-be entrepreneurs selling T-shirts or memorabilia.
The audience of hundreds of thousands of fans ranged from teenagers to pensioners.
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Angela Menendez, who cleans floors in a hospital, said: “I love Mick Jagger so much. I’ve always dreamed about this. I couldn’t sleep knowing he would be here.”
Cristian, an 18-year-old, said: “Don’t let anybody tell you different, this is the best concert in the history of Cuba.”
For Juan Carlos Leon, 57, the event was more than special.
“To me, this is a consecration,” he said. “I’ve waited my whole life for this. The Stones are the greatest.”
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