SHANGHAI -- Strutting, preening and greeting the audience in Chinese, the Rolling Stones made their debut in mainland China yesterday in a censored -- but still raucous -- show.
The ''world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" opened their show with ''Start Me Up," a song with suggestive lyrics that apparently made it past the censors who banned five other hits. They then pounded through almost two hours of classic rock.
''Dajia hao ma?" -- r ''How's everybody doing?" -- Mick Jagger yelled to the packed house at Shanghai's 8,000-seat indoor stadium, where the audience was overwhelmingly foreign.
''It's nice to be here for the first time."
The concert had all the trademark Stones touches, from ringing guitars to falling confetti and huge inflatable dolls.
Chinese rock pioneer Cui Jian prompted appreciative cheers when he joined Jagger for the ballad ''Wild Horses." Cui was temporarily banned from performing after the deadly June 4, 1989, military crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on student protesters, for whom ''Nothing to my Name" had become an anthem.
In another reminder of the heavy hand of China's authoritarian government, the Stones were told not to sing five of their songs, apparently because of their suggestive lyrics.
The songs were believed to be ''Brown Sugar," ''Honky Tonk Women," ''Beast of Burden," ''Let's Spend the Night Together" and ''Rough Justice." But ''Start Me Up" slipped through.
Four decades into their career, the Stones remain relatively unknown in China. It did not help that ticket prices ranged up to $374 -- about three months' wages for most Chinese.
Still, Chinese audience reaction seemed largely positive, if a little preoccupied with the band's longevity. ''So old, and yet he can really perform," Song Jianghong said, referring to Jagger, 62.
Talking to reporters before the show, Cui hailed the concert as a ''milestone" for him and all rock music fans in China.
''It is a big moment. I will never forget this," said Cui, who said he believed rock 'n' roll needed another five years to truly find its audience in China.
At a Friday news conference, Jagger said he was not surprised to be censored, but added: ''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."