Iron Maiden have become the latest band to change their live performance in order to satisfy the Chinese government. Earlier this week, the metal veterans played two shows in China – in Beijing and Shanghai – as part of their Book of Souls world tour.
The band had to change lyrics and drop special effects and stage props, according the metal site Blabbermouth. Singer Bruce Dickinson was forbidden to swear on stage, though in Shanghai he got round that restriction by mouthing the relevant words silently during his between-songs chat. “We ripped it up in Beijing, and we thought, ‘Ooh, that was a bit serious,’ you know,” he told the audience. “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?”
Blabbermouth itemised the changes Maiden were forced to make to their usual performance, alongside the swearing rule:
No pyrotechnics were used during the show, whereas the group usually have flames and smoke-bombs;
During The Trooper, Dickinson was not able to wave a Union Jack, as he normally does;
The lyrics of the song Powerslave were changed, so Dickinson had to replace the title in the chorus, singing instead:
“Tell me why I had to be a Wicker Man”;
The band were not allowed to throw memorabilia into the crowd.
Maiden follow many other bands, famous and little-known, in having to to alter their show to suit the Chinese authorities, who clamp down on both political themes and vulgarity. Bands are expected to submit details of their performance, and even their complete lyrics, before visiting the country. Despite their qualms, the Chinese authorities were happy for Maiden to play a song about Satan (The Number of the Beast) and about the last hours of a man condemned to hang (Hallowed Be thy Name).
That can result in some unintentionally comedic alterations, as when the Danish band Rock Hard Power Spray played the Midi music festival in Beijing in 2007 and had to change the title of their song Fucks for Free to Fox for Free in order to get permission to perform.
On both of their visits to China, the Rolling Stones had songs excised from their set, something Mick Jagger referred to from the stage during a 2014 show in Shanghai. “And now we’d usually play something like Honky Tonk Women … but it’s been vetoed,” he said.