Making his debut in Vietnam over the weekend, Bob Dylan ended up playing to one of the smallest crowds he has entertained for almost 50 years. Playing at the local outpost of Melbourne’s RMIT University in Ho Chi Minh City, AKA Saigon, Dylan could only muster enough interest from enough people to half fill the 8,000 capacity venue.
Like his recent China gigs which had the set list vetted by Communist Party officials, Dylan played a set which left off potentially ‘provocative’ songs such as ‘Blowing In The Wind’ and ‘The Times They are A-Changing’, instead focusing on more recent material. It’s not so much refusing to play classics which defined a generation which has fans so upset, however. It’s Dylan’s silence on political prisoners in Asia that has them dumfounded.
“[He] should be ashamed of himself,” says Brad Adams, executive director of the US wing of Human Rights Watch. “[Dylan] has a historic chance to communicate a message of freedom and hope, but instead he is allowing censors to choose his playlist.” Dylan heads to Hong Kong and Singapore before heading down under to play the Bluesfest in Byron Bay and a strong of dates around Oz.