Sun, Apr 09, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Shanghai rocks to Rolling Stones' first China concert

START THEM UP The veteran rockers opened their set with their classic hit, despite the bad feeling caused by a decision by censors to bar certain songs

AGENCIES , SHANGHAI

The Rolling Stones opened their first ever concert in China yesterday with the classic hit, Start Me Up.

The veteran rockers played to a packed house at Shanghai's 8,000 seat indoor stadium, where the audience was overwhelmingly foreign.

There was little sign of the fan frenzy that has followed the band on other stops on their current "A Bigger Bang" tour, however, demand for tickets had driven up the price to 5,000 yuan (US$624) on the black market.

Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian who was to perform with the band said before the concert the show was a "milestone" for him and for all rock fans in China.

"It is a big moment, I will never forget this," said Cui, whose songs were anthems for student protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In a reminder of the authoritarian communist government's cautious attitude toward the influence of western pop culture, The Stones were told not to perform five of their biggest hits because of suggestive lyrics.

At a news conference on Friday, frontman Mick Jagger said he wasn't surprised to receive the demand, but added with characteristic bite: "I'm pleased that the Ministry of Culture is protecting the morals of the expat bankers and their girlfriends that are going to be coming."

The banned songs were believed to be past hits Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Woman, Beast of Burden, and Let's Spend the Night Together, along with Rough Justice from the new album.

The band said they accepted the restrictions as the price to pay for a concert that has taken years to organize.

During the 1966-1976 cultural revolution, the Rolling Stones were considered a symbol of decadent capitalism.

Even when politics was no longer a major obstacle, nature has intervened.

The band agreed not to play the contentious four songs at a gig arranged in 2003, but it had to be cancelled because of the SARS crisis.

This time, with ticket prices equivalent to several months of the average annual wage in China, more than 80 percent of the crowd at the 8,000 venue were expected to be foreigners.

Keith Richards, the lead guitarist, joked that the band might still play an instrumental version of the songs "to give Mick a break."

Organizers said the gig was to be the first show by a foreign band to be relayed live by CCTV -- the Chinese state broadcaster.

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