Elton John caused a stir last night by dedicating his show in Beijing to Chinese political dissident and artist Ai Weiwei, The Associated Press reports. John made the dedication minutes into his set, saying the show was for “the spirit and talent” of Ai. The artist is a touchy subject in China, and the crowd was noticeably surprised by John’s dedication, several audience members said.
Ai, a sculptor and installation artist, has explored social injustice through his art, which has caused controversy in China. He was detained for almost three months last year and is prohibited from leaving the country. Ai and John were able to meet before the show, snapping a pic together.
Though Chinese media outlets covered the concert, they did not report John’s dedication to Ai. The Chinese government exerts tight control over live shows, requiring artists to receive approval for a list of songs, cast and crew members. Their standards became more stringent after Björk shouted “Tibet, Tibet,” during a 2008 show in Shanghai.