Bob Dylan Plays Mainland China for the First Time

Chinese government approves Bob Dylan’s set list

bob dylan

Image source from dwhartwig on flickr

After Bob Dylan was refused permission to perform in Beijing and Shanghai last year, the Ministry of Culture has allowed the 69-year-old to play the cities this year.  The artist, who is known for writing songs promoting civil liberties and condemning injustice, had to submit his set list to the Ministry for approval.  As a result, some of Dylan’s biggest hits had to be omitted, such as “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”.

Because China was closed off to the West during Dylan’s popularity in the ‘60s, the people of China were not very aware of the folk singer until the 1980s.  In that decade, the Chinese government became a bit more relaxed, and allowed its people to listen to rock music, though Dylan’s albums were never released in the country.

Bjork’s recent dissent contributed to Bob Dylan’s censorship

While rock stars have always been subject to censorship, the government became more vigilant after a Bjork concert in 2008, when the Icelandic singer shouted “Tibet! Tibet!” during a performance of her song “Declare Independence”.  Jeffery Wu, a promoter with the Taiwan-based Brokers Brothers Herald, explained the impact of going against the government.

“What Björk did definitely made life very difficult for other performers. They are very wary of what will be said by performers on stage now,” Wu said.

Bob Dylan charges through set list

During his almost two hour show, Dylan sang and played through his songs with little audience interaction until he introduced his five-piece band.  Some of Dylan’s famous songs still made it past the censorship, such as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “All Along the Watchtower”, which brought the 6,000 audience members to their feet.

Bob Dylan plays Shanghai Grand Stage Friday night.

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