Anyone expecting Bob Dylan to use his first China stage to openly call for an end to a crackdown on political dissent would have been disappointed in the legend's Beijing concert Wednesday night.
There was some speculation Dylan might speak out of behalf of missing artist Ai Weiwei and others caught in the ongoing sweep of critics of the Chinese regime, but he said nothing. Then again, Dylan is known for not speaking to his audience, in any context. At his first-ever show in China, Dylan played for nearly two hours, mixing a selection of old and new songs and skipping his best known protest songs. He paused only to introduce his band.
His set list was closely watched, including by the reported 2,000 people selected for tickets from the Chinese Ministry of Culture -- 11 percent of the audience. Dylan's original China engagements were canceled by that ministry last year. Yet while he said nothing, there may have been meaning in the music. Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for the US radio show Marketplace, noted on Twitter that Dylan's opening song, "Gonna Change my Way of Thinking," is one the artist rarely performs.
The lyrics include the refrain: "So much oppression; Can’t keep track of it no more."
Dylan will play Shanghai April 8.