Castro, 74, drew cheers from the youthful Cuban crowd when he took a balcony seat just before Manic Street Preachers plunged into an hour-long set late Saturday (February 17) with songs denouncing U.S. policy toward this island nation.

Castro stood and applauded after lead singer James Dean Bradfield performed an acousticversion of “Baby Elian,” an anti-American paean to the 7-year-old boy at the center of aninternational custody dispute who was returned to Cuba from the United States last year.

“Baby Elian” calls the United States “the devil’s playground” and says that Elian had been”kidnapped to the promised land.” Band members also dedicated a song to three-time CubanOlympic boxing champion Felix Savon.

The band, whose albums include “The Holy Bible” and “Everything Must Go,” played tracks from their latest release, “Know Your Enemy,” whose cover sports a Cuban flag.

Their free performance at Havana’s Karl Marx theater was billed as the biggest concert in Cuba by a Western rock band in 20 years. Many youths in the audience danced in the aisles throughout the show.

“Cuba has shown its independence and is a good example that everything doesn’t have to be ‘Americanized’ in this world,” Bradfield told a pre-concert news conference.

In 1979, Billy Joel and Kris Kristofferson teamed up with Cuban musicians in an event called “Havana Jams.”

Castro seized power in 1959 and initially denounced Western music as a bad influence on youth. Recent years have seen increasing cultural exchanges, and Castro himself has paid homage to John Lennon.