HAVANA, Cuba – The Rolling Stones took to Cuban media to promise a “historic” occasion when they give their first Havana concert this Friday in a communist country where rock ‘n roll was long considered subversive.
“¡Hola Cuba!” the elderly but still hugely popular British superstars call out in a short clip posted on the state-run cubainformacion.tv website late Tuesday.
Speaking in Spanish, Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger says: “We’ve performed in many incredible places, but this concert in Havana is going to be an historic event for us. We hope it will be for you too.”
The concert, lasting about two and a quarter hours is due to start at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva, a sporting complex where a vast crowd is expected to gather on the playing fields.
The band is not charging for tickets in the impoverished country and state news media estimate that as many as 500,000 to a million people, out of a total population of about 11 million, may come.
The Havana concert was a surprise addition to a Latin America tour that has seen the Rolling Stones play in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. A huge stage is being erected in the sports park as well as 10 giant video screens, something never seen before in Cuba where technology mostly lags far behind.
The concert comes immediately after U.S. President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking visit to Cuba, in which he said he had come to “bury” decades of U.S.-Cuban animosity and to promote the isolated state’s opening up to the world.
Despite official disapproval of rock music, the Stones have long been popular and former restrictions have gradually melted away over the last decade.
Jagger, 72, visited Cuba last October and attended concert of timba, a Cuban music style similar to salsa.