The Rolling Stones dazzled a crowd of over half a million people in Havana in a show with no precedent in this country. The vast sports pitch at Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva sports complex was almost too small for the multitude that spilled out into nearby streets and even climbed onto the roofs of neighbouring houses to catch tunes like Jumping Jack Flash, Midnight Rambler and Gimme Shelter. “Qué público tan chévere,” said Mick Jagger in Spanish—“What a cool crowd!”—and the crowd went wild. “La estamos pasando muy bien aqui en La Habana,” he went on—“we’re having a great time here in Havana”—and the audience was euphoric.
“Thank you Cuba, for all the music you’ve given the world,” added the band’s lead singer, speaking in Spanish throughout the show. He dedicated Angie, one of his most melodic tracks, to “the romantic Cubans” and following a dose of melancholy with Miss You, he assured the crowd they were fantastic singers.
He also recounted eating rice and beans, which he said he loved, but admitted that the best part of the stay had been dancing rumba at the Casa de la Música.
In Out of Control Jagger picked out the tune on his harmonica and, along with Keith Richards on guitar, really conveyed the force of this twosome, who are not said to get on too well off-stage.
“Here are the Rolling Stones!” shouted Richards, and launched into a rendition of You Got the Silver, the first track recorded by the Rolling Stones where Richards sings solo.
In Sympathy for the Devil, Jagger appeared on stage with a red feathered cape, displaying all his “evil” amidst a spectacular light show.
“Ustedes sí están en talla,” he said as he finished. “You guys are definitely in shape.” While Richards’ and Woods’ solos captivated an audience that was hearing them live for the first time ever, it was Jagger’s frenetic moves—bordering on convulsions—that got the whole crowd dancing.
The Entrevoces choir was the only group of Cuban musicians to accompany the Stones onYou Can’t Always Get What You Want, while thousands joined in with the chorus.
Cuba, Cuba, Cuba.. chanted the crowd, which wasn’t just made up of Cubans. Many had travelled from far and wide to catch the gig, including the likes of Richard Gere and Naomi Campbell.
Satisfaction squeezed out every last drop of energy reaching an earth-shattering climax. “We know that years ago it was difficult to listen to our music in Cuba, but here we are playing for you in your beautiful land.”