Bob Dylan in Shanghai

The set list from Bob Dylan’s April 8th show in Shanghai is now up at Bob Links and goes as follows:

1. Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking
2. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
3. Things Have Changed
4. Tangled Up In Blue
5. Honest With Me
6. Simple Twist Of Fate
7. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
8. Blind Willie McTell
9. The Levee’s Gonna Break
10. Desolation Row
11. Highway 61 Revisited
12. Spirit On The Water
13. Thunder On The Mountain
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man

(encore)
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. Forever Young

This second set list to look at from mainland China lends some credence to the theory that he may have been prohibited from playing Times They Are A-Changin’ or Blowin’ in the Wind, and — I’m thinking — Masters of War. However, I’d continue to caution that no one has cited a specific source for any list of banned songs. I do hope that Bob Dylan’s “camp” will make the record clear at some point; perhaps when he’s safely out of communist airspace (which won’t be until he leaves Vietnam, where he plays on April 10th).

Meanwhile, a second fan review of the show a couple of nights ago in Beijing has been posted at Bob Links, and it’s well worth a read. It’s credited to Mark Ray, who says that the crowd contained a lot more young people than he had anticipated. A little bit of it:

After a slowish start, Dylan, his band and the crowd warmed up midway through, sparked by “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. The lyrics had the crowd roaring between verses and suddenly the band got louder and sharper and Dylan lifted a few gears.

Apparently it’s common for Beijing crowds to get vocal during a show but this time they chose their songs wisely.

One was “Ballad of a Thin Man”, which Dylan sang, harmonica in hand, front and center with a yellow spotlight producing a golden glow on his outstretched hands, his shirt and his hat, which took on the look of a straw boater. It was a brief vision of Dylan as a vaudeville performer, the song and dance man. It’s a powerful song at any time but those famous lines:

“Because something is happening here

But you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mister Jones”

hit home with this smart, ambitious young generation of Chinese.

We might forget how radical, how world-upturning these songs were when many of us first heard them (and that goes even for us who heard them many years after their original release). It’s nice to think of them causing wonder and excitement, if only for a few, in China and in 2011.


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2 Responses to “Bob Dylan in Shanghai”
  1. […] for not singing “Desolation Row” in Beijing, it turns out that he did sing it, as Sean Curnyn points out, in Shanghai.  That song, as anyone who has heard it knows, casts up fierce images of a future […]

  2. Well, it seems “Blowin’ in the Wind” was played on the Chinese TV newscast that mentioned Dylan’s tour. The official 1963 version, lyrics easy to make out. The one Maureen Dowd might possibly own a copy of, maybe. I am guessing that it was heard there by many more people than actually attended his shows. Mighty poor job of censorship, if that’s what it was.

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