The Rolling Stones Hits Communist Cuba
Md. Taqi Yasir
The Rolling Stones unleashed two hours of screeching, thundering the rock and roll on an elated crowd of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and foreign visitors Friday night, capping one of the most momentous weeks in modern Cuban history with a massive celebration of music that was once forbidden here.
The week opened with the arrival of President Barack Obama in Air Force One, accompanied by more than 1,000 employees of a government that waged a cold war against Cuba for more than 50 years. This time, U.S. forces were armed with briefing books and press invitations, here to seal the president’s 2014 opening to Cuba with a string of expertly crafted public events that saw Obama call for democracy live on circumstances television, then attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game with Cuban President Raul Castro. The week ended with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts firing Jumping Jack Flash, Sympathy for the Devil and Satisfaction into a jubilant crowd from 3 story tall high-definition television monitors and thrashing towers of amplifier.
The Rolling Stones were the biggest act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution brought a communist government to power and isolated the island from the United States and its allies. At its heyday, Cuba’s communist government frowned on U.S. and British bands. Fans had to hide their Beatles and Stones albums in covers borrowed from albums of appropriately revolutionary Cuban groups. But times have changed. Former supermodel Naomi Campbell, actor Richard Gere and singer Jimmy Buffet partied in the VIP section of the concert. Castro’s son Alejandro, one of the driving forces behind Cuba’s declaration of detente with the United States, greeted friends and relatives after the show.
“This is history,” said Raul Podio, a 22-year-old employee of a state security firm, who was joined by a group of young friends. “I would like to see more groups, for there to be more variety, for more artists to come, because that would mean we are less isolated.”The band’s Cuba stop ended its “Ole” Latin America tour, which also included concerts in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Mexico.
The whole tour shows that The Rolling Stones will never retire. The band members still cry out loud and burn the party down out loud.