Bob Dylan China concerts avoid controversy
As reported in The Telegraph, Bob Dylan "charged through" his set list at Beijing's Workers' Gymnasium on April 6 with little interaction with the audience and only introducing his five-piece band after 90 minutes and the first encore.
The singer also left out some of his more famous protest songs including “Blowin' in the Wind” and “The Times they Are a-Changin'”.
Dylan, like all artists performing in China, had to submit his set list beforehand for approval by the Ministry of Culture, which in its formal invitation reminded the singer that he would have to "conduct the performance strictly according to the approved program," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Dylan’s set, which he played to a crowd of 6,000 in the 18,000-seat stadium, did include other hits, including "Tangled up in Blue" and "Simple Twist of Fate."
"Foreign acts coming into China are watched much more closely than native Chinese bands," Nevin Domer, booking manager at D-22, one of Beijing’s major live-houses, told the Los Angeles Times. "Even when bands on our label play big festivals with hundreds or thousands of people, they don't need to submit lyrics [to censors]."
Bob Dylan sings "Tangled up in Blue" at Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium
Dylan is relatively unknown to much of China's music audience. Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News ran a story about his upcoming concerts alongside a photograph of country music star Willie Nelson (the page has been removed).
Some expected that Dylan, a protest singer, would go the Björk 2008 route when she shouted, "Tibet! Tibet!" at the end of her song "Declare Independence." But in the midst of controversy surrounding figures such as Ai Weiwei, and Dylan’s own visa, which was approved a mere month before the show, it doesn't come as a huge surprise that he chose the path of least resistance.
"It would have been a total disaster if he had said anything, this was a really high-profile event," said Archie Hamilton, a music promoter.
For the sake of China’s live music fans who are currently enjoying the influx of international artists (we hear rumors that Coldplay and Bon Jovi concerts are on the horizon; Shanghai just hosted Usher and the Eagles), we hope that Bob Dylan’s show on April 8 at Shanghai Grand Stage goes just as smoothly.
Bob Dylan Shanghai concert, Shanghai Grand Stage, April 8, 7:30 p.m., RMB 280-1,961.41, en.piao.com.cn
Bob Dylan Live in Hong Kong. April 12-13, 8 p.m, Star Hall, KITEC, Kowloon, HK$580-980. Tickets are available for purchase at www.hkticketing.com and Tom Lee Music stores in Hong Kong.