Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones playing in Hyde Park in 2013Reuters

The biggest band in the world is due to play one of its biggest ever concerts in Havana, in a surprise late addition to their current Latin American tour.

According to Cuban state media, as many as half a million people will watch the Rolling Stones play the Ciudad Deportivo sports centre on Good Friday - for free. Another 500,000 are expected to throng neighbouring streets according to the American music magazine Billboard, meaning that one out of every 11 Cubans could end up watching the show.

Mick Jagger and friends arrived in Cuba on their private jet late on Thursday night (24 March), greeting fans awaiting them at the airport with a short hello in Spanish, and Jagger told fans he was happy to be on the island.

Jagger visited Cuba in October 2015, possibly to scout venues for this historic show. In a statement, the group said: "We have performed in many special places during our long career but this show in Havana is going to be a landmark event for us, and, we hope, for all our friends in Cuba too."

Rock music was banned in Cuba between the 1960s and 1990s for being subversive. And despite an underground trade in bootlegged records and cassettes, it wasn't until relatively recently that the country's one-party state legalised it. Even now, with little internet access and state-run stores refusing to stock rock, most fans have to turn to stores trading in pirated CDs.

"A Rolling Stones concert in Havana? It's a dream," Eddie Escobar, 45, who founded one of Havana's few clubs for live rock music, the Yellow Submarine, told the AFP. "Rock music, I hope, will open everything else – politics, the economy, the Internet. We're 20 years behind absolutely everything."

The Stones are currently embarked on their America Latina Ole tour, playing stadium shows in Chile, Argentina and Brazil. According to Billboard, the stadium-level show involves 61 sea containers' worth of gear, and a packed Boeing 747.

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