The Czech capital is in the grip of rock fever. The legendary Rolling Stones are back in Prague for a long-anticipated concert that is part of their European No Filter tour. The Stones have a special place in Czech hearts –they first performed in Prague in 1990 in what was a symbolic celebration of the country’s new-found freedom.
President Václav Havel himself introduced the legendary rock band to a packed Strahov stadium in 1990. Czechs got their first taste of a Western-style rock concert and saw live on stage stars they had only read about and whose music they smuggled on tapes from hand-to-hand. The 100, 000 strong audience was in a frenzy and the Stones pulled all the stops. The motto of the concert, which was part of their Urban Jungle tour, appeared on posters and T-shirts everywhere – The Stones Are Rolling In, The Tanks Are Rolling Out. Mick Jagger later sent Czechs a greeting saying it had been a very special moment for the band as well.
“For me it was such a proud moment when Mr. Havel invited the Rolling Stones in 1990 to come and play in Prague. When I got there and saw the posters which said "The Stones Are Rolling In, The Tanks Are Rolling Out" it made me so proud to be the first western band to play in a truly free Czechoslovakia. I remember the spirit of those times – optimistic, warm, exciting and innocent – it was a truly inspiring moment.”
Tickets to the concert were hopelessly sold out and people begged, borrowed and even nicked them to be able to attend. Jindřich Šídlo told Czech Radio that for many people it was their first taste of the Western lifestyle.
“I was a grammar school student at the time and I remember that I worked for days to save the 500 crowns needed for two tickets. We were on top of the world but when we came to Prague our backpacks got stolen with the tickets inside. So in the end we heard the concert from the balcony of a Prague flat. Everyone was out listening – and the Stones really rocked Prague - you could hear the concert throughout the city.”
The Stones started off with Start Me Up, and followed up with Honkey Tonk Woman, Angie, Brown Sugar, Jumpin' Jack Flash, and Sympathy for the Devil. Their final hit – I ain’t got no satisfaction ended with a huge fireworks display.
Since that legendary concert in Prague, which was the start of a firm friendship between president Havel and the band’s members, the Stones returned three more times for concerts that were the cultural highlight of the year. In 1995 130,000 people packed Prague’s Strahov stadium for their Voodoo lounge tour.
Today they are back and their fans are eager for more. Czech rock musician Michal Kocáb says the Stones are truly a phenomenon.
“Mick Jagger is 75 now, but he still moves on stage like a 30 year old. The Stones are simply in a different league from everyone else. Like the Beatles. I always say the Stones are not a band, they are a planetary institution.”