Rolling Stones perform historic 1st concert in Havana

The Rolling Stones took to the stage at a Havana sports complex on Friday night, performing for fans in a country where rock 'n' roll music was once prohibited on TV and radio.

Band performs 18 songs at free event at the Ciudad Deportiva sports complex in Havana

The Rolling Stones rocked tens of thousands of Cuban and foreign fans at a free, outdoor concert in Havana on Friday, capping a week of engagement with the West for the communist-run country that once censored the British band's music.

The Stones kicked off their first-ever show in Cuba with their hit Jumpin' Jack Flash. It was first recorded in 1968, when Cuban rock fans were secretly sharing pirated vinyl records and risked being sent to rural work brigades to cure "ideological deviation."

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The group followed with It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It), which may carry extra meaning for Cuban fans who once faced discrimination for their musical tastes.

In all, they played 18 songs, including  Satisfaction, Sympathy for the Devil, and Angie.

"We know that years back it was hard to hear our music in Cuba, but here we are playing. I also think the times are changing," lead singer Mick Jagger said in Spanish to the cheering audience.

Fans started gathering 18 hours ahead of time at Havana's Sports City football and baseball fields, including Cubans who travelled from across the Caribbean's largest island and foreigners who flew in for the occasion.

The Stones' music was once banned by the Cuban government. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Former supermodel Naomi Campbell, actor Richard Gere and singer Jimmy Buffet partied in the VIP section of the concert. Cuban President Raul 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.

People were dressed in all manner of jeans, T-shirts and boots with the Stones' tongue and lips logo. Noticeably absent were would-be entrepreneurs selling T-shirts or memorabilia.

Some Cubans have taken to colouring the tongues with the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag, whether in the mistaken belief that the British rock stars were American or in the spirit of this week's historic visit by U.S. President Barack Obama.

A young man shows he's a fan of the Rolling Stones at the band's first Cuban show on March 25. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Stones formed in London in 1962, just three years after Fidel Castro's bearded, long-haired rebels toppled a pro-American government.

Ironically, Castro's revolutionary government came to see counterculture bands like the Stones and the Beatles as dangerously subversive and prohibited their music on TV and radio.

Half a century later, both the Rolling Stones and Cuba's leadership share a longevity, performing well beyond what most people would consider retirement age.

With files from The Associated Press


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