The Rolling Stones are playing a free show in Cuba tonight, and the event is going to be huge — not only in terms of size, but in terms of the lasting impact it will have on the band members’ careers, global musical unity, and international perception of Cuba.
The Rolling Stones are right up there with The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson among the biggest acts in musical history. “Rolling Stones” has been a household name all over the globe since the band stepped onto the pop culture scene over half a century ago.
The Rolling Stones in 1965. pic.twitter.com/opxgQcNLMm
— Amazing Moments (@AMAZlNGMoment) March 15, 2016
They have, arguably, achieved just as much as any musical group ever has, so for them to top themselves at this point seems impossible.
Yet, it is exactly what they will do tonight.
The Rolling Stones’ trip to Cuba was, according to Yahoo!, announced as a finale to the band’s South American tour only after most of the tour was already over, and it was not easy to pull off.
The main reason the show was difficult to organize, said director of research Richard Tullo, is that Cuba is still very much a developing country with a poor infrastructure and shoddy facilities, which made hosting a show for such a huge act very logistically difficult.
— Travel Weekly (@TWtravelnews) March 21, 2016
“In a country where local rock bands have trouble finding even basic equipment like electric guitars and amplifiers,” writes ABC, “the Rolling Stones had to start from scratch.”
Not only that, but Cuba’s government has somewhat of a stigma against Rock n’ Roll groups like the Stones, as rock music used to be banned outright by the communist government in Cuba.
— newsofbahrain (@newsofbahrain) March 25, 2016
President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba also caused scheduling issues for the concert, as the Rolling Stones did not want to compete with the President of the United States for Cuba’s attention.
But finally, the date of the Rolling Stones concert has arrived, and the chosen venue — the Ciudad Deportivo Sports Center in Havana — will be absolutely packed. Billboard reports that the fields themselves will hold 500,000 attendees, and hundreds of thousands more are expected to crowd into nearby streets. Assuming a million people show up, that is one out of every 11 Cubans.
And it’s no wonder Cuba’s citizens are so incredibly pumped for the Rolling Stones’ appearance; it is, according to a previous report from The Inquisitr, the first instance of international rockstars playing in Cuba in the nation’s history.
Adam Wilkes, one of the Rolling Stones’ show producers, elaborated on the meaning of that fact.
“We are witnessing a historic embrace between the Cuban people and the international music community,” Wilkes said.
“The Rolling Stones are the catalyst for exciting times to come.”
The significance of Wilkes’ statement, especially the last part, should not be ignored. The Rolling Stones’ appearance is a historic event that is completely revolutionary for Cuba’s music culture.
And as Eddie Escobar, founder of a live music club in Havana, pointed out, the monumental change signaled by the event is not just musical — it pertains to Cuba’s entire culture and international standing.
“Rock music, I hope, will open everything else — politics, the economy, the internet. We’re 20 years behind absolutely everything.”
The Rolling Stones themselves, meanwhile, are not oblivious to the historic nature of their Cuban performance.
“We have performed in many special places during our long career,” the Rolling Stones said in a joint statement, “but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too.”
— NBC 6 South Florida (@nbc6) March 23, 2016
Although Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones have done many, many noteworthy things in their careers, they have not until now done anything that would make quite as much of a global impact as contributing to Cuba’s initiation into the developed world. They definitely have something to be proud of.
[Photo by Eduardo Verdugo/Getty Images]