April 7 marks the 30th anniversary of the first time a major western concert was held in China a visit from the pop act Wham! (George Michael and the other guy), who played to a crowd of 15,000 at the Workers Gymnasium.

According to the group's former manager, Simon Napier-Bell, it took 18 months to get the show off the ground, and that it was a bit of a consolation prize for the duo now making it bigger in the US earlier. "Jazz (Summers, the group's co-manager) came up with the idea of perhaps we could make you the first ever group to play in China. George [Michael] just liked the idea  he said, 'yes fix that.'"

Biography has a nice recollection of the event here in which we learn that Napier-Bell engineered the pioneering concert by sabotaging the attempts of Freddie Mercury-led Queen to become the first major gay pop culture icon rock and roll act to play China.

If you'd like to see how far Beijing has come since those heady mid-90s, check out this hour-long documentary of the concert on Youtube here.

Since that time, China has gone back-and-forth multiple times on their willingness to let foreign bands to play. Sometimes it seems the floodgates are opening, other times it seems waves of conseravtism take over. The pendulum is swinging again this month as May's usually crowded calendar of outdoor concerts have been largely called off.

Truth be told, Beijing has had it worse off than Shanghai, which over the years has managed to host major acts that have skipped Beijing (Rolling Stones, Metallica, Eric Clapton), with the omissions chalked up to Beijing's reluctance to issue local permits, stingy capital consumers, or poorly-run city venues.

On this 30th anniversary of that go-go show, we look at a dozen big Western bands that have managed to pull off gigs Beijing.

Roxette  Workers Gymnasium, February 19, 1995
We don't add this because it was particularly memorable or we're big fans of Roxette, but because they were the next in line after Wham! to perform in Beijng. This was the first in a line of many foreign acts that were asked to tone down their lyrics for their local shows, in this case the Swedish pop act were forbidden from singing "making love to you" (they changed it to "making up to you").  See kids, things are a bit better these days.

Bjork  Workers Gymnasium, February 13, 1996
Many people remember when Iceland's most famous native Bjork played in Shanghai in March, 2008, and, er, said some things maybe she shouldn't have said, but less remembered is her February 13, 1996 gig at the Workers Gymnasium. Although fans seemed to enjoy the show, fewer than 1,000 people showed up to see it.

Deep Purple  Workers Gymnasium, March 31, 2004
Ian Gillan, a.k.a. the voice of Deep Purple, sounded as good as he did back in the band's "Smoke on the Water" days. Most notable about this show was an opening, five-song set by China's godfather of rock, Cui Jian. It may have been the poor sound quality, but Cui and his band were simply awful, and in the first time a major Chinese rock act shared the stage with a major Western rock act, Cui was blown off the stage.

Norah Jones  Workers Gymnasium, March 7, 2005
With nine Grammy Awards under her belt, the world's most boring pop artist came to Beijing, quite a shock for a local audience unaccustomed to seeing artists at their peak. And she's where, now?

Black-Eyed Peas  Capital Gymnasium, July 18, 2006
The first of a couple of performances by the Fergie and will.i.am and those other two guys in the musical collective took place at the seldom-used Capital Gymnasium.

Nine Inch Nails  Chaoyang Park, September 9, 2007
Even we had to look this one up to be sure. Yep, Nine Inch Nails, in Chaoyang Park. Things really were different back then before the Olympics.

Kanye West  Workers Gymnasium, November 1, 2008
Although the gig was an easy walk to and from Sanlitun, most fans were disappointed at the shortness of Mr. Kardashian's concert, despite featuring a 16-song setlist.

Beyonce  MasterCard Center, October 23, 2009
Still one of the best remembered shows in recent Beijing history, Beyonce came through her "I Am ..." world tour. Fans can continue hoping for the long-hoped for Beyonce/Jay-Z Bejiing show.

Bob Dylan  Workers Gymnasium, April 6, 2011
The guy who helped create the protest song plays in Beijing. What then, is the grounds for excluding anyone else from playing? Fans attend to say they saw Dylan play live, as he is unintelligible and uninteractive.

Avril Lavigne  MasterCard Center, February 14, 2012
Now one of the few artists who regularly visits Beijing, Avril's first stop was in 2008, but her Valentine's Day concert in 2012 was a more more successful gig, and her pop-punk wowed her die-hard Beijing fans.

Elton John  MasterCard Center, November 25, 2012
Opening appropriately with "The Bitch is Back" on his 40th anniversary tour, Sir Elton did his hits from front to back. Probably his last visit to Beijing after first coming in 1984 with the soccer team he then owned, Watford FC, after making some remarks from the stage that some people didn't like.

The Killers  MasterCard Center, October 1, 2013
After canceling a 2010 date, unlike most bands that pre-cancel their Beijing shows, The Killers actually did reschedule.

By no means is this a complete list ... what's the best gig you've ever seen in Beijing? Let us know in the comments below.

Photos: Youtube, Blogspot


Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog