Rolling Stones arrive in Cuba for historic concert

Cuba is gearing up for a historic free concert by the Rolling Stones on Friday night in the country where rock 'n' roll music was once silenced.

Band will perform for free on Friday evening at Havana's Ciudad Deportiva

Members of the Rolling Stones, from left, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, pose for photos from the plane that brought them to Cuba at Jose Marti international airport in Havana on Thursday. (Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press)

Cuba is gearing up for a historic free concert by the Rolling Stones on Friday night in the country where rock 'n' roll music was once silenced.

The band arrived Thursday evening in the Cuban capital where the concert will be held.

"Obviously something has happened in the last few years," lead singer Mick Jagger said in English. "So, time changes everything... we are very pleased to be here and I'm sure it's going to be a great show."

Friday night's concert will come three days after U.S. President Barack Obama wrapped up a visit to the communist-run island during which he declared an end to the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.

Men work near the stage to be used for the Rolling Stones' free outdoor concert at Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana sports complex in Havana. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

"It's a dream that has arrived for the Cuban people," radio host and rock music specialist Juanito Camacho. "A lot of young Cubans will like the music but it will also satisfy the longings of older generations."

Cuban musicologist Joaquin Borres characterized the event as "very important," saying it would be the biggest rock concert of its kind ever on the island. He predicted that it would encourage "other groups of that stature to come and perform."

The band's private plane flew into Jose Marti airport with the four British rockers and about 60 technical workers and family members.

The Rolling Stones also transported a great amount of gear to the island for the concert, including seven huge screens and 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) of sound equipment.

"We have performed in many special places during our long career, but this show in Havana will be a milestone for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba, too," the band said in a statement released before the arrival.

The concert will be held outdoors at Havana's Ciudad Deportiva, where nearby streets were blocked to traffic beginning on Thursday. 

In the heat of Cuba's revolution from the 1960s to the 1980s, foreign bands like the Rolling Stones were considered subversive and blocked from the radio. Cubans listened to their music in secret, passing records from hand to hand.

The band's Cuba stop ends its "Ole" Latin America tour, which also included concerts in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. 

A family plays with a child next to a banner with the symbol of the Rolling Stones. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)


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