Rolling Stones to Play March 25 Show in Havana
HAVANA – The Rolling Stones announced Tuesday that they will play a free concert in Havana on March 25, becoming the biggest act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution.
The Stones will play in Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva three days after President Barack Obama visits Havana. The concert is expected to draw a massive audience in a country where the government once persecuted young people for listening to rock music, then seen as a tool of Western capitalism.
“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.
Along with easing many restrictions on foreign music, art and literature, the Cuban government has increasingly allowed large gatherings not organized by the government in recent years. The Stones concert will almost certainly be one of the largest since Cuba began easing its limits on some non-official gatherings in the 1990s.
On the same week as the visits by Obama and The Rolling Stones, the Tampa Bay Rays are also expected to play the first Major League Baseball exhibition game in Cuba since 1999, part of an extraordinary string of events in a country that spent the Cold War isolated from the United States and its allies.
“It’s part of a dream to see the greatest icons of music who couldn’t come before for various reasons, above all Cuba’s isolation,” said Cuban music critic Joaquin Borges Triana. “The Rolling Stones are going to magically unite generations of Cubans, from people in their 60s to their children and grandchildren.”
Cuban fans have been buzzing about a possible concert by “Los Rollings” since lead singer Mick Jagger visited Havana in October.
The Havana “Concert for Amity” will cap the Stones’ America Latina Ole tour through seven Latin American cities. The band said it will donate instruments and musical equipment from sponsors to Cuban musicians during their visit.
The biggest musical performance in Cuba to date was held in 2009, when the Colombian singer Juanes drew more than a million people to a show titled “Peace without Frontiers” in Havana’s Revolution Plaza.
That concert angered Cuban-American exiles in the U.S. and its organizers wrangled with the Cuban government over performances by Cuban artists critical of the government. U.S. government contractors also tried to use the concert to promote programs designed to foment political change in Cuba.
The Stones concert is expected to take place in a more relaxed political environment, coming more than a year after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they were declaring detente and moving to normalize relations.
Both governments are now moving rapidly to make the new relationship appear irreversible before the end of Obama’s term.