Havana Moon - Sara Louise Petty & The Rolling Stones in Cuba / by Sara Louise Petty

I attended the Rolling Stones concert with a couple of travel friends, Jack and 'Special'. Our plan was to get there early, wait until the gates opened and run to secure a spot near the stage. In perspective, to be that close to the stage anywhere else would cost hundreds of dollars. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. We were very surprised when we got there as to how little security were at the grounds. As far as we could see there was one guard at each heavy iron doored entrance. We had some severe reservations of how this might go down if and when mob mentality set in. The Cuban people are not used to such concerts, some didn't even like the Rolling Stones, they just wanted to be there because it was a huge free concert and new to them. We were concerned that a stampede could happen. 

At the point they let the door open, it was a iron door made of bars, the crowd pushed the door open so hard it came off the hinges and fell to the ground where everyone ran over it. I was pushed against the stone pillar to the side of the door, and was being crushed fairly hard. I honestly thought that was it for me! I would never see my children again, crushed at a Rolling Stones concert. (these things go through your head). Luckily my two friends saw my predicament and pulled me out of the fray. Once in (security nowhere to be seen at that entrance) we ran to the front and staked our positions. Then we waited. For 9 hours plus. The crowd were excited and friendships were made. When you are sitting alongside the same strangers for hours, you become very familiar. 

The stadium, Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana,  was really a large sports field. It was not set up for any kind of concert. There were just a few facilities and no vendors with food or drink. We brought fresh coconut, granola bars and some water but after that, we had nothing. There were no T shirts to be had, except about 50 that were thrown to the crowd (starting a little push/fighting). I think under normal circumstances my patience would of worn thin, waiting so long in the heat, with no personal space or food or drink but this was an exciting concert. It certainly was not the first music concert for the Cubans, most recently before The Rolling Stones, Diplo played as well as other musicians such as David Byrne over the years. The Rolling Stones are arguably the biggest Rock n'Roll band in the world, alongside The Beatles, with such a vast catalogue and still this incredible stage presence even well into their elder years. So we stuck it out, and waited. 

The atmosphere was just incredible. There was an enormous, low full moon just hovering over to the right of me appearing as shining down onto the stage. The crowd was huge, I was just a few people from the front walkway stage where Mick often came out so I really couldn't see just how big the crowd was behind me until I saw pictures on the news! An incredible amount of people. Many traveled in from other countries for the concert, I met French, Peruvian, Canadian, fellow British people and lots of Americans. Then there were the Cubans, who literally traveled from all parts of the island for this show. The atmosphere was electric. The crowd would often burst into song, and we all joined in. 

I was positioned that all the VIP concert goers walked past me to get to their area. The kids and spouses of the Stones were there, many Cuban musicians and TV personalities and I got to say hello to Richard Gere. 

As the show started with a brilliantly devised graphic intro made especially for the concert , The Rolling Stones burst onto the stage with a rousing rendition of Jumpin' Jack Flash. All my body aches and pains from waiting all day in cramped quarters in blistering heat suddenly disappeared. Mick Jagger was on top form, with more energy in his lithe body than ever, performing moves only Jagger could pull off, sometimes resembling some kind of birdlike creature with slow jerking movements that drove the crowd wild. Speaking in fluent (and impressive) spanish to the crowd Jagger enthusiastically spoke of the new era awaiting the Cuban people. Keith Richards (always my favorite Stone) suggested he may "stay here forever" from the warmth and welcoming they received from the people. Richards would often pound his heart, then bring his fists to the ground - gesturing that his heart will remain there. 

The concert could of gone on forever, as you just felt charged from the excitement of the crowd, The Cubans were all spellbound. When it was over, everyone exited the stadium in a very orderly fashion and all very excited of what The Rolling Stones just gave to Cuba. 


Sara Louise Petty