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Rolling Stones to Play 1st China Concert

Having played before millions of fans worldwide over a four-decade career, there aren't many firsts left for rock icons the Rolling Stones. By the end of this week, there'll be one less, after their debut concert in Chinese mainland.


The band was due to arrive in Shanghai on Thursday, three years after the SARS epidemic forced them to cancel an earlier visit to the country.


A sellout crowd was expected for Saturday night's show in the relatively intimate setting of the 8,000-seat Shanghai Grand Stage in the heart of China's biggest and brashest city.


The concert marks another milestone in the authoritarian communist state's opening to Western pop culture, although a host of limitations remain.


The Rolling Stones' 2002 greatest hits collection, 40 Licks, was cut by the censors to just 36 after Brown Sugar, Honky Tonk Woman, Beast of Burden, and Let's Spend the Night Together, were cut from the mainland Chinese release, apparently due to their suggestive lyrics.


It wasn't clear if the tracks would be featured in the playlist Saturday. 


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 heavy metal group Deep Purple, among others.


Shanghai was a late addition to the world tour's schedule, but singer Mick 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," Jagger said.


The Stones were booked for a pair of concerts in 2003, just as China's outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, was raging.


Those shows were called off, though the Stones did play in Hong Kong in late 2003 in a concert series meant to lift spirits following the end of the outbreak.


The band's current "A Bigger Bang" tour started in the United States 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.


(CRI April 7, 2006)

The Rolling Stones to Make China Debut in April
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