Miracle in Havana

The Rolling Stones in concert.

Foto: Jorge Luis Baños_IPS

The miracle took place, it’s already history: The Rolling Stones gave a concert in Havana before hundreds of thousands of persons gathered in a wide space of the Ciudad Deportiva. Who would have predicted this some years ago? Not even Nostradamus would have dared predict this.

But that’s how it was: at 8:35 on the night of Good Friday the oldest active rock band, the greatest living rock myth, appeared on stage and the public in the enormous sports field was able to witness an exceptional event, another one, during a miraculous week.


The performance of the legendary British band, as part of the British music week, was linked to the events that took place in Cuba starting Palm Sunday, when, for three days, the Cuban capital was the centre of the global media’s interest due to the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.


And even though the concert referred to is an artistic event, its relevance overflows the very cultural field. For the leader of the AM rock band, Angel Mario Rodríguez, this concert reminded him of the one organised by Roger Waters after the fall of the Berlin Wall, “The Wall Live in Berlin,” to celebrate the end of the division of the two Germanys, with the participation of rock stars like Van Morrinson, Scorpions, Sinead O´Connor, Ute Lemper, Marianne Faithfull, The Band, Cindy Lauper, Jerry Hall, The Band, or Bryan Adams.


If “The Wall Live” was centred on backing the Memorial Fund for Relief Disaster, created to mitigate the impacts of any war or natural disaster in Europe, perhaps it is not far-fetched to make a parallel with the free performance by The Rolling Stones in a country where a few decades ago the word rock was unpronounceable in the public sphere. It’s not surprising therefore that in one of first phrases said by Mick Jagger in Spanish was: “Las cosasestáncambiando” (Things are changing).




The concert’s public started arriving since the night before, and they camped to ensure getting a privileged place. They were among those close to the stage and were able to physically see the band members. The immense majority, we who did not have an invitation or didn’t get there sufficiently early, saw and lived the concert on the screens.


The space for the show was so big that it was never full and, at least through Santa Catalina Street, one could easily have access to it. Since there wasn’t a compact crowd, one could easily circulate and the atmosphere remained relaxed. Some were able to introduce alcoholic beverages, though this happened without consequences.


When the band came on stage and Mick Jagger said the first phrases in Spanish, those of us who only saw the image of the musicians on the screen experienced a strange sensation: we wanted to know where they really were, but unless we advanced a great deal among the multitude it would not be possible. But that did not prevent us from enjoying the concert less: the audio was sensational and the band’s energy fabulous with their companions irradiating the entire auditorium.


The truth must be said: the rock followers (and addicts) have their preferences, which they at times fiercely defend, and they can like The Beatles, Kansas, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, or Metallica more than The Rolling Stones, but no one can deny the contribution, transcendence and legend of this band.


Being in a Rolling Stones concert and seeing (even if it was at a sidereal distance) those (almost) immortals on stage seemed to us Cubans of the island, until a short time ago, just a dream; which is why no rock fan wanted to miss the March 25 concert.


All the age groups were represented in the crowd at the Ciudad Deportiva: children, adolescents, young people and a large and enthusiastic representation of senior citizens, for whom the trip to get there was an unavoidable pilgrimage, a question of honour.


The diversity present at the concert was evident in the way they reacted in the face of the sound that confronted them, seduced them, convened them: they danced, sang, applauded, sang along, or simply observed, curious, captivated or distant. However, the tide of energy that emanated from the public made Mick Jagger say in Spanish: “Quépúblicomáschévere,” “están en talla.”


We don’t know how many of those in the public were not Cuban nationals, but they were many, including those from different media. In the midst of the reigning enthusiasm,Vinicius, a young journalist from Brazil’s TV Globo, wanted to get my impressions, but his battery ran out of charge and the question (will this concert somehow change Cuban music?) was not recorded.


The concert will of course not change in any way Cuban music, which a long time ago experienced the influence of rock, but who knows what strings could have moved Keith Richard’s guitar, or Jagger’s voice and strength, what influence it will have in the taste of many young people present for whom rock is the music of their grandparents.


When at 10:50 p.m. the band played the last notes of their national anthem, no one could say they had not felt satisfied, fulfilled by the bath of rock that flooded Havana that Friday. (2016)



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