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Stones Censored but Raucous at China Show

CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press | April 9 2006

SHANGHAI, China - Strutting, preening and greeting the audience in Chinese, the Rolling Stones made their debut in mainland China on Saturday in a censored — but still raucous — show.

The "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" opened their show with "Start Me Up," a song with suggestive lyrics that apparently made it past the censors who banned five other hits. They then pounded through almost two hours of classic rock.

"Dajia hao ma?" — or "How's everybody doing?" — Mick Jagger yelled to the packed house at Shanghai's 8,000-seat indoor stadium, where the audience was overwhelmingly foreign. Some paid more than $600 each for tickets.

"It's nice to be here for the first time."

The concert had all the trademark Stones touches, from ringing guitars to falling confetti and huge inflatable dolls.

Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian prompted appreciative cheers when he joined Jagger for the ballad "Wild Horses." Cui was temporarily banned from performing after the deadly June 4, 1989, military crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on student protesters, for whom "Nothing to my Name" had become an anthem.

In another reminder of the heavy hand of China's authoritarian government, the Stones were told not to sing five of their songs, apparently because of their suggestive lyrics.

The songs were believed to be "Brown Sugar," "Honky Tonk Women," "Beast of Burden," "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Rough Justice." But "Start Me Up" slipped through.

Four decades into their career, the Stones remain relatively unknown in China. It did not help that ticket prices ranged up to $374 — about three months' wages for most Chinese.

Still, Chinese audience reaction seemed largely positive, if a little preoccupied with the band's longevity.

"So old, and yet he can really perform," Song Jianghong said, referring to Jagger, 62.

Beijing resident Xue Liang said the Stones enjoyed cult status in China.

"They were among the first acts whose music was smuggled in. To see them here in China now is just amazing," Xue said.

Talking to reporters before the show, Cui hailed the concert as a "milestone" for him and all rock music fans in China.

"It is a big moment. I will never forget this," said Cui, who said he believed rock 'n' roll needed another five years to truly find its audience in China.

At a Friday news conference, Jagger said he was not surprised to be censored, but added acerbically: "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."

He added that the Stones had another 400-plus tunes they could play.

The performance seemed a little rough before Cui's appearance, which led into a raucous performance of "Midnight Rambler" followed by other favorites including "Gimme Shelter," "Tumbling Dice," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

Dressed in tight black pants and a sequined T-shirt, Jagger strutted across the stage, sometimes skipping along a catwalk stretching into the audience. He egged on the crowd with call-and-response shouts of "ohttp://www!" and urged them to join in on choruses, shouting out "zai yiqi!," or, "all together!"

The concert was supposed to take place in 2003, but the band had to call off a pair of Chinese appearances because of the outbreak of potentially deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Those who postponed their China trips that year included Wilhelm Dietl, who flew in with three friends from Germany for the weekend.

"It's the first time for them in China so it's something special," said Dietl, who said he first saw the Stones in Munich, Germany, in 1973.

He played down the political significance of the band's appearance.

"I don't think Mick Jagger is going to call for the freedom of Tibet," he said.

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