Dylan peforming at Beijing’s Worker’s Stadium
In case you haven’t seen the numerous advertisements for it, Bob Dylan is playing tonight in Shanghai! As you can imagine, it’s kind of a huge deal – the counterculture icon was prevented from coming to this country last year and only made it here this time with a vetted set list. But we weren’t the first stop on the China tour – Dylan made an appearance in Beijing first, which allowed Western media to give their thoughts. Apparently most of their thoughts are centered on how much the times are or aren’t a changing.
Most reports seemed to be convinced that the times had changed, though they were divided into whether the times have changed because Bob Dylan is finally being allowed into China:
- A’Changin Times: Bob Dylan Plays his first ever concert in China [MSNBC Photo Blog]
- Times a-changin’ as Dylan performs pre-approved set in Beijing [The Irish Times]
- Times Change as Dylan Makes China Debut [The Australian]
- Changin’ times: Dylan rocks China [ABC Online]
- The Times May Be A-Changing: Dylan Plays China for First Time Ever [TIME]
- The times are changing: Dylan comes to China [The Star]
Or if it was Dylan himself who has changed, considering a man once known for his anti-authoritarian appeal was now bowing down to a totalitarian government and playing a censored set list without any protest songs:
- Changing Tunes [The National]:”The times, we are constantly reminded, they are a-changing. And so it seems are the attitudes of the man who coined the phrase… Three years ago, the Icelandic singer Bjork left Chinese authorities seething after she chanted “Tibet, Tibet” at the end of a concert in Shanghai. But on Wednesday in Beijing, Bob Dylan, a songwriter synonymous with 1960s activism and rebellion, played a set that was pre-approved by the country’s authorities and shorn of almost all of his acclaimed protest songs.”
- Dylan a-changin’ his tune to suit China [Reuters via The Vancouver Sun]: “Counterculture hero and 1960s protest singersongwriter Bob Dylan received a rapturous welcome from fans on Wednesday at his first concert in China, despite having agreed to sing only an approved set designed not to offend political sensitivities.”
And then there were those who weren’t completely sure if the times had a’changed at all:
- The Times Are Changing Only So Much: Dylan, With Restricted Set List, Plays China [NY Times ArtsBeat]: “Mr. Dylan, who was given approval last month by the Chinese government to perform in Beijing and Shanghai, was criticized by The Global Times, a state-run newspaper that wrote: “The subject of Dylan’s songs, from drugs to racial equality to human dignity to war, are not on the radar of the average Chinese person, who is more interested in taking care of his or her family.””
- ‘The times they are a changin’,’ or are they? [MSNBC]: “Although the cheapest tickets for his concert at the Workers’ Gymnasium in central Beijing sold out immediately, the venue — which normally seats 12,000 — looked only to be 65 percent full. (Your correspondent forked over nearly $150 for her nosebleed seat, a hefty price for the average Chinese university graduate who might earn three times that a month in Beijing.) Nevertheless, Dylan was warmly welcomed by the audience — a mix of Chinese and Western fans who cheered and whistled to crowd favorites like “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Forever Young.””
Ironically, considering all the news headlines, Dylan didn’t actually play “The Times They Are A’Changin’.” That was one of the songs deemed too sensitive by the Cultural Bureau.
Personally, how silly is it that the Cultural Bureau felt the need to censor him in the first place? Even people who understand English have trouble making out what he’s saying, not to mention Dylan is so unknown here that Xinmin ran a story about his upcoming concerts with a photo of country crooner Willie Nelson instead.
Unfortunately none of us at Shanghaiist have tickets for the show tonight. Readers, please do report back and tell us if the times really have a’changed?
Extra: We would like to take a moment to salute the Chicago Tribune, which went off the beaten path for their Bob Dylan in China headline: How many bucks must a star get paid before he bows to The Man?