The Rolling Stones may now be welcome in China, but China may be ready for only 36 licks and no “Brown Sugar.”
Mick Jagger and the gang arrived in Shanghai on Thursday for their first concert in mainland China.
The group’s 2002 greatest hits collection, “40 Licks,” was cut by the censors to just 36, and “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Beast of Burden” were cut from the mainland Chinese release, apparently due to suggestive lyrics. It wasn’t clear if the songs would be featured when the group performs on Saturday night.
A sellout crowd was expected for the show in the relatively intimate setting of the 8,000-seat Shanghai Grand Stage in the heart of China’s biggest city.
The Stones had planned to play in China three years ago, but the SARS epidemic forced them to call off the tour.
Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts smiled and waved at reporters after stepping off a chartered flight from Japan during their marathon “A Bigger Bang” tour.
Though famous around the world for such classics as “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” the Stones are relatively unknown in China, which was mired in Maoist isolation at the height of the band’s fame in the 1960s and 1970s.
Since then, relaxed cultural restrictions and the rise of a Chinese middle class have attracted many international acts to the country. Recent years have seen performances in Shanghai by Elton John, Whitney Houston and the rock group Deep Purple, among others.
Shanghai was a late addition to the tour’s schedule, but Jagger was quoted in the Shanghai Daily newspaper last week as saying the band considered the city a must-see.
“We all know that Shanghai is a big important city, so we wanted to make sure it’s on our itinerary,” he said.
The Stones were booked for a pair of concerts in 2003, just as China’s outbreak of the deadly virus severe acute respiratory syndrome was raging.
Those shows were called off, though the Stones did play in Hong Kong late in 2003 in a concert series meant to lift spirits following the end of the outbreak.
The band’s current tour started in the U.S. in August, and has wound its way through Central and South America and Japan, including a free concert for more than 1 million people on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite their famed loyalty to the band, some Stones fans couldn’t help tweaking them over their Shanghai visit.
A suggested setlist posted on the group’s Web site included “Let’s Spend the Night Together in a Workers’ Paradise.”