8 Apr 2011

Dylan plays first ever China concert

10:14 am on 8 April 2011

Bob Dylan got a rapturous welcome from fans at his first ever concert in mainland China.

The list of songs he played at the concert in Beijing was vetted by communist authorities, and included many of his familiar songs, such as Like a Rolling Stone - but he did not sing numbers like The Times They Are A-Changin.

Dylan was on stage for almost two hours at the city's Worker's Gymnasium where the audience gave his penultimate song, All Along the Watchtower, a standing ovation, Reuters reports. He returned for two encores.

The singer spoke only once directly to the crowd of some 5,000 people of mostly young Chinese, and that was to introduce his band.

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.

In 2006, Beijing demanded the Rolling Stones exclude five of their racier numbers for their first show in China, including Brown Sugar and Let's Spend the Night Together due to lyrics deemed too risque.

Dylan's concert comes at a sensitive time in China, where musicians and artists have always had to contend with at least a measure of government control and censorship.

Over the weekend renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei was taken into custody at Beijing airport and has not been heard from since, in the latest part of a sweeping campaign to stifle dissent.