Bob Dylan gets rapturous reception at China concert

Wed Apr 6, 2011 1:09pm EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Counter-culture hero and 1960s protest singer Bob Dylan got a rapturous welcome from fans on Wednesday at his first gig in China, despite agreeing to sing an approved set so as not to offend political sensitivities.

Famous for his songs against injustice and for civil liberties and pacifism, Dylan struck a cautious line in Beijing and did not sing anything that might have overtly offended China's Communist rulers, like "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

On stage for almost two hours at the city's Worker's Gymnasium, Dylan brought the audience to a standing ovation with his penultimate song, "All Along the Watchtower," and came back for two encores. "Like a Rolling Stone" also proved popular.

He spoke only once directly to the crowd of some 5,000 people -- mostly young Chinese though with a strong foreign presence -- and that was to introduce his band.

"I was a little disappointed that he didn't sing many of his songs because of the politics," said Zhang Tian, 30, a Beijing lawyer. "What is the government so afraid of?"

Dylan's gravelly voice, which made his lyrics hard to pick out even for native speakers of English, would have flummoxed many Chinese in the crowd in any case.

Promoters tried to bring Dylan to China last year, but the Culture Ministry did not give its approval, as is required for any concert in the country.

China's agreement this year came with the proviso that Dylan "performed with the approved content," according to a brief statement issued last month by the ministry, which gave no other details.   Continued...