The Rolling Stones unleashed two hours of thundering rock and roll on an ecstatic 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 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, and ended with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts firing "Jumpin' Jack Flash" ''Sympathy for the Devil," and "Satisfaction" into a jubilant crowd at the free concert in the open-air Ciudad Deportiva.
The Rolling Stones were the biggest mainstream rock act to play in Cuba since its 1959 revolution. At its heyday, Cuba's communist government frowned on US and British bands. Fans had to hide their Beatles and Stones albums in covers borrowed from albums of appropriately revolutionary Cuban groups. Few were willing to comment on the connections between the concert and Obama's visit earlier in the week, but many said it had implications beyond simple entertainment. "The Rolling Stones being in Cuba at this time is like several steps up the ladder," Jennifer Corchado, a 23-year-old biologist, told the AP. "It's like three steps up the staircase toward global culture, toward the rest of the world."