Havana 2016 Bootleg Review
Havana, Cuba, March 25, 2016: Stones Amaze Youthful First-Time Audience
Review by EOMS’s Stonehearted
Despite that the first ever concert performance by The Rolling Stones in Havana, Cuba, on March 25, 2016 was a well-received success, the show began not with a bang, but a whimper. As the audience recording herein reveals – the only such recording to have surfaced thus far – “Scarf Me Up” has spawned a twin in “Limping” Jack Flash. The first reading of the trademark opening riff sequence feels stiff and groggy, and the repetition of this riff sequence gets muddled, the melody squeezed flat as an Armenian pizza. One notices how the 1:19 official clip by Rolling Stones Productions starts after the opening riff – we can rest assured that, like the “Scarf Me Up” show at Hyde Park, the official release of the Havana concert will not necessarily be 100% “live”.
Nevertheless, there are several highlights, and the audience aspect of the recording is particularly compelling, because around the bootlegger’s microphone there are several young twentyish fans who provide their moment by moment, song by song impressions, and almost entirely in English as well – in fact, most of the Spanish that we hear spoken emanates from center stage in the voice of Mick Jagger, who frequently addresses the audience between songs and a great deal of the time in Spanish. This is significant, because the observations of these fans are neither informed nor constrained by nostalgia. In the first half of the show, there are a lot of age comments, and even a couple about Keith’s teeth. But they’re still enjoying the show overall (“They sound good for their age. They’re better than I thought they’d be.”), and they’re listening attentively as well as critically (Paint It Black: “It was okay, but ah…”). They are impressed with Mick, particularly his earnest vocal performance on Angie: “Yeah, he’s thinking of L’Wren”, and they erupt with delight when he blows the harp on Out Of Control – yet, just after the song has ended and Mick says a “Thank you!” to the audience, one young fan blurts out: “Crazy old man!”. They are equally impressed with Charlie pumping and thundering along through All Down The Line, and Ron Wood’s slide guitar playing on this number gets them cheering as well. Keith’s set is also well received. You Got The Silver has his voice crackling soulfully like a smoldering fire in an ancient hearth, with still enough rustic charm to warm the mood of the evening. Before They Make Me Run is flawless, if a bit threadbare, and at the end one of the young fans reacts approvingly, “That was pretty good!”
The real turning point – the point where the young fans are no longer making age-related comments – comes with the start of what forum die-hards have dubbed “the warhorse parade”. This reviewer will refrain from the term “warhorse” and will instead refer to this part of the set as “The Big 8”. All through Midnight Rambler they are cheering rapturously as these weathered legends roar along in all their ragged glory. This reviewer should mention that this is the first time having heard Sasha Allen do her part in Gimme Shelter, and she is utterly fantastic, singing with an emotionally charged power that lends the song a more authentic sound. Rather than sounding camp, like a cabaret reading, Gimme Shelter now conveys the raw tension inherent in the original studio recording, with Sasha’s Merry Clayton styled approach. We like Sasha Allen, and so does the Havana audience.
“The Big 8” is a lesson in how to win over a younger, first-time audience. The boys get right in their comfort zone and bring out their best material. After Miss You, one young fan exclaims: “They’re still amazing! It never gets old!” So the Stones have gone from aging to ageless in just a dozen songs. Let’s hear it for the so-called warhorses. Finally, when it’s over, following the triumphant closer Satisfaction, the young fans – like all the newly won over youngsters at Glastonbury 3 years earlier – were all singing, “Na-na, na-na-na, na-na-na!” again and again. It was surely a night they will remember… and there was not a single set list complaint in the house.