Last night the Rolling Stones had their first performance ever in Shanghai, and luckily we had managed to get tickets. We had an early dinner with Jim Feldkamp and his friend Cecilia, and during the dinner Marcel Ekkel and a friend of his (Samuel, marketing director Asia-Pacific for Goretex) also joined. Marcel and Samuel did not have tickets yet, but I was quite sure they would be able to get them for a reasonable price at the entrance: for most Chinese concerts half the tickets are given to sponsors, who give them to their clients and employees. These normally have no interest in going, and sell them for a small amount to ticket hawkers. In the past I got many tickets for concerts in Beijing and Shanghai in this way, but times seem to be changing. There were only a few tickets available, and sellers did not want to sell them below RMB 3000 (EUR 300). Even after the concert started they refused to sell for a lower price!
The concert itself did not start on time. At 8 PM (the official starting time) the crew was still finalizing the stage building process! Finally at 8:50 the speaker announced: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones …… “ (the crowd starts screaming) “will start their performance in 10-15 minutes” (the crowd starts booing). I went to get some drinks, but they were completely sold out before the concert even started. Bad management! The organizers were not commercial anyway, because all the available drinks were sold for just RMB 5 (EUR 0.50). At 3 to 4 times that price they would have also sold out. Also the Rolling Stones CD’s that were sold inside the stadium were cheap: for a mere RMB 60 you could buy an original CD. Which made me wonder if they are original or not. For a fake it would have been a rip-off (normally they are about RMB 5 without a plastic cover).
I estimate that 90% of the audience were foreigners, or girlfriends of foreigners. Mick Jagger already foresaw that: during a press conference he was asked what he thought of the fact that some of their songs were censored, to which he said something like “I’m pleased that the Ministry of Culture is protecting the morals of the expat bankers and their girlfriends that are going to be coming”. We met many people whom we know, I think that most of my foreign friends in the city were at the concert.
Just after 9 PM the lights went off and with a big bang Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Woods and Charlie Watts were on stage and started “Start me up”. Immediately the hour of waiting was forgotten and everybody was in a rock mood. I was amazed how fit these guys still were, when I saw them 7 years ago in Stuttgart they (especially Keith and Charlie) looked older than now. Mick Jagger had not changed a bit, still dancing and running around the stage for 2 hours. He was fantastic.
The songs they played were for the most all-time favourites, and most of them were sang by Mick Jagger. But for Wild Horses he got Cui Jian on stage (China first rock star). They tried to sing together, but I felt they had not rehearsed before. This was confirmed this morning by a friend of Cui Jian, who told me that Mick had only given Cui Jian a call a few days before the concert and asked him what song he would like to play. Interesting, Cui Jian gave a short speech after his song was over in which he said in Chinese that the Rolling Stones plan to give another concert in Beijing later this year. Most of the foreigners probably did not understand this, because not many reacted to this. And Mick had of course no clue what Cui Jian was saying. I did not read anything in the media about this yet, so also the foreign correspondents seem to have missed it.
The concert was great: the Rolling Stones are a fantastic band to see live, they really make a show out of it, and the songs they played were a nice combination of rock and ballads. The audience seemed to love it.
Around 11 PM the concert was over, but not before two extra songs were played (You can’t always get what you want, and I can’t get no Satisfaction). The audience tried to clap for 10 minutes in order to get them back, but it was really over. An absolutely great performance.
Cecilia managed to park her car next to the entrance, so we were one of the first people on the road. We had heard rumours of an after-party in Xintiandi, so we went there straight away. We were one of the first and nobody asked who we were. In the 3rd floor cigar launch we had a beer and some cocktails. Then the owner came in and looked as us asking “do I know you?” . We said we came directly from the concert, and then he wasn’t sure whether we might be friends of the Stones, so we could stay. One guy who was already there was the brother of Charlie Watts (at least that’s what the owner said, not sure whether this was a joke or not – but he looked very much like him). We stayed here until about 1:30 AM, having a great time. The Stones had not arrived yet, but we decided to move on to our next event of the night: DJ Tiesto, the world’s number one DJ.
Update: Just received an email about several fake tickets being sold by ticket hawkers. A friend told me that also at a Pavarotti concert fake tickets were sold. They seem to target concerts where many foreigners go, so be aware of this. Of course the hawkers are shooting themselves in the foot, because once trust becomes an issue not many people will buy on the street anymore.