Dylan gets go-ahead to play Beijing, Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 March, 2011, 12:00am

Bob Dylan's long-rumoured mainland tour may finally take place next month after censors approved concerts by the iconic singer-songwriter in Beijing and Shanghai.

The approval confounds speculation that Dylan - whose songs have put music to popular protests and revolutions since the 1960s - would not be welcomed by mainland censors jittery about the risk of North African-inspired unrest.

However, the approval notice posted on the Ministry of Culture's website on Thursday warned promoter Gehua Live Nation to ensure proper 'supervision' of the concerts.

'Please carry out performances strictly according to the approved content,' the notice said.

Talk of Dylan adding the mainland to his 'never-ending tour' has been blowing in the wind for over a year, but had largely been dismissed as rumour after two planned concerts were cancelled in March last year amid controversy about censorship and costs. But tickets to two shows - at Beijing Workers' Stadium on April 6 and the Shanghai Grand Stage on April 8 - are now on sale via a number of online box offices.

The two shows were first announced last month on the website of ISIS magazine, a journal for Dylan fans, but were not included on the singer's official website last night.

It does not list any performances between a show in Taipei on April 3 and his appearance in Hong Kong on April 12. The culture ministry notice only made reference to a show in Beijing, specifying that Dylan and his 24-member entourage were cleared to perform in the capital between March 30 and April 12.

A culture ministry official said yesterday that no separate licence was required for the Shanghai leg, but that organisers would need to lodge the approval with the municipal culture bureau for filing purposes.

A Gehua spokesman said this was 'currently being organised' with Shanghai authorities. The Beijing Culture Bureau, which applied for the approval on behalf of the organiser of Dylan's Beijing concert, said his song list was vetted by censors. A spokesman refused to release the list.

There was no mention of Dylan's tour on the Shanghai Grand Stage website yesterday afternoon, but staff on the venue's ticket hotline said they had heard 'a famous American singer' was due to hold a concert there on April 8. 'We have been hearing a lot of talk about this recently, so I expect it is probably true,' said one phone-line operator, who declined to give her name. 'But we haven't received any tickets yet so you should check back next week. Nothing is confirmed until we get the tickets.'

Dylan, 69, is one of the hardest-working major stars of his generation. His never-ending tour has been running since 1988, with the singer consistently making around 100 performances every year.

In January last year, the ISIS website listed two mainland concerts as part of the singer's Asian tour, the identical dates and venues he now appears set to play in Beijing and Shanghai 12 months later. But Taiwanese promoter Broker Brothers Herald pulled out in March, blaming the culture ministry for refusing a licence due to censorship issues.

The ministry later denied it had even received an application for the shows, and a number of industry insiders said the cancellation was more likely because of financial issues.

Mainland censors have proven prickly about approving politically minded Western musicians' concerts since Icelandic singer Bjork called out 'Tibet, Tibet!' during a show in Shanghai in 2008.