British heavy metal legends IRON MAIDEN played their second-ever concert in China on Tuesday, April 26 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The show followed MAIDEN’s appearance two days earlier at Beijing LeSports Center, where the band was forced to make several minor changes in its performance — presumably at the reqest of China’s Ministry of Culture, which had to approve all of the group’s lyrics prior to MAIDEN’s Chinese dates being confirmed.
Before launching into the third song of MAIDEN’s Shanghai set, singer Bruce Dickinson told the audience: “It’s great to be here tonight. It’s great to be in China tonight, I tell ya. We ripped it up in Beijing, and we thought, ‘Ooh, that was a bit serious,’ you know. So they had a few rules, so we kind of stuck by the rules, and we didn’t do any swearing. You know what I mean? There’s another thing I can’t do. See if you can guess what it is later on. But we don’t really give a [mouths the word ‘shit’] about all that kind of stuff, because, you know what? The most important thing is the music, the most important thing is that we are here, and you are here, and we are gonna have a great [mouths the word ‘fucking’] time.”
He added: “I was watching on the Chinese TV channel… They’ve got this really cool thing, interview with Janick [Gers, MAIDEN guitarist]. They’ve got these great pictures of the show with flames everywhere and dry ice and smoke. And I thought, ‘Ah, that’s a [mouths the word ‘fucking’] shame, because we can’t do that, because we just got a little bit restricted. However, next time we’ll have a word. Next time we come back to China to see you guys.”
According to the Polish IRON MAIDEN fan club SanktuariuM, MAIDEN did not alter “The Book Of Souls” setlist for the Beijing and the Shanghai shows, although the following changes were made:
* There were no pyrotechnics used during the concerts.
* During the performance of “The Trooper”, Dickinson did not wave a Union Jack flag, but still sported the red coat uniform worn by troops during the battle which inspired the song and waved an “invisible” flag while singing the track. In addition, the Union Jack flag was still prominently displayed on the backdrop during MAIDEN’s performance of the song.
* Bruce changed the lyrics to the chorus of the song “Powerslave” from “Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave” to “Tell me why I had to be a Wicker Man.”
* IRON MAIDEN was not allowed to throw stuff (wristbands, drum heads, etc.) into the crowd during the concert.
* Bruce didn’t swear and had to be careful not to use the “F” word.
IRON MAIDEN’s setlist for the Shanghai concert:
01. If Eternity Should Fall
02. Speed Of Light
03. Children Of The Damned
04. Tears Of A Clown
05. The Red And The Black
06. The Trooper
08. Death Of Glory
09. The Book Of Souls
10. Hallowed Be Thy Name
11. Fear Of The Dark
12. Iron Maiden
13. The Number Of The Beast
14. Blood Brothers
15. Wasted Years
Vetting by the Chinese authorities for foreign bands and artists isn’t uncommon and has resulted in many big names being refused entry to the country to perform.
THE ROLLING STONES were censored in their China debut in 2006, most likely for their songs’ suggestive lyrics. “Brown Sugar”, “Honky Tonk Woman”, “Beast Of Burden” and “Let’s Spend The Night Together” were banned from the concert.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “authorities [in China] require entertainment companies to jump through hoops, submitting minute details of their show, including setlists. The process reflects the control held by China’s censors, who try to prevent incidents like one in 2008, in which Icelandic singer Bjork sang at a Shanghai concert about the ever-politically sensitive issue of Tibetan freedom.” Speaking about her comments at the time, a spokesperson for the ministry of culture in China stated: “[Her] political show not only broke Chinese laws and regulations and hurt the feeling of Chinese people but also went against the professional code of an artist.”
The members of METALLICA revealed in 2013 that they were asked to send the lyrics to their entire discography to the Chinese government for approval before they were given permission to play in the country. “We had to give them a whole set of songs and they went through all the lyrics and okayed which ones we could play, which ones we couldn’t play,” METALLICA guitarist Kirk Hammett said. “They see a lyric like ‘Master Of Puppets’ being so subversive that they’re not allowing us to play it. It’s kind of scary.” Added METALLICA frontman James Hetfield: “And that just brings more attention to it, of course. That doesn’t work.”
The Chinese ministry of culture monitors music for vulgarity, as well as political content. In 2009, it reportedly ordered a cleanup of online music sites to address “poor taste and vulgar content.”