The Rolling Stones ‘Havana Moon’

Concert documentary of the band’s historic Cuban show

Nov. 29, 2016
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It’s been a crossroads year for Cuba, starting with Pres. Obama’s proclamation of normal relations with the embargoed island nation and ending with the death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. In between came an event almost as important for many Cubans, The Rolling Stones’ first concert on the island.

That particular historic moment is recorded in the concert documentary Havana Moon, packaged along with two-CDs containing all of the music from that night. The film begins with a leisurely panorama of Cuba’s capital, its streets filled with 1950s American cars better preserved than the city’s crumbling architecture. Mick Jagger comments in a voiceover about Cuba’s “weird romantic aura… it’s a country that stood up to the United States.” Keith Richards adds that Obama mentioned the impending Stones concert in his proclamation. “He was the opening act, I guess,” he says, chuckling. The Stones also mention that Castro banned rock for many years and outlawing it only endowed the music with greater intrigue and, perhaps, importance.

The audience that filled the outdoor stadium where the Stones played behaved pretty much like rock audiences anywhere as they lit the darkness by holding cellphones aloft. And yet the close-ups of many faces in the crowd suggest greater expectancy and genuine eagerness than usual.

As for the Stones, they put on their usual well-drilled show, working an audience that sounded familiar with their music despite the bans by their own government and the embargo imposed by ours. “It’s Only Rock and Roll” (yes, they played that one), but in Havana that night, hearing it live for the first time meant something special to thousands of concertgoers.

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