Iranians wait nearly 30 years to see a Western pop star and then they get Chris de Burgh

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The Independent Culture

There was no immediate word on whether dancing cheek-to-cheek will be permitted, but the Iranian government has agreed to allow the schmaltzy rock star Chris de Burgh to perform in the country the first Western act to do so since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The star, whose hit "Lady in Red" continues to excite emotion and parody more than 20 years after it was written, has been recording with an Iranian band and will begin planning concerts in Iran early next year.

His work has been deemed safe enough for performance in a country which until recently banned rock music, and where the government continues to control what can and can't be heard. Western rock music, considered decadent, was forced underground after the revolution, and it wasn't until the late Nineties that Western-style pop music was sanctioned.

De Burgh has been recording with Arian, who describe themselves as Iran's first post-revolutionary pop band. The nine-piece group, whose founders met on military service in 1998, struggled for more than two years to be allowed to perform and then record their music.

Now, a joint concert with De Burgh has been sanctioned by the culture ministry.

Arian's manager, Mohsen Rajabpour, said the band had collaborated with De Burgh on a song called "A Melody for Peace", which was intended "to reflect the peace-seeking spirit of the Iranian people to the world".

Confirming a report by Iran's Fars news agency, he said: "We are trying to organise the concerts, scheduled for June and July. The plan is to hold the concert at a 12,000-seat stadium complex in Tehran, and Mr De Burgh is expected to visit Iran early next year as a tourist for discussions on the project."

The culture ministry will need to approve the set list, and while most of the star's soft-rock catalogue may not present any issues, he may want to leave "Patricia the Stripper" at home, and there may also be debate over his Christmas hit, "A Spaceman Came Travelling".

De Burgh told fans on his website that recording with Arian was an exciting project and that one track, "The Words I Love You", is in both English and Farsi.

The 59-year-old singer/songwriter was born Christopher John Davison to a British diplomat and an Irish secretary, and spent his early years moving with the family in Malta, Nigeria and Zaire, before they settled in a 12th-century Irish castle. He took his mother's maiden name as a stage name after performing to patrons in the family hotel. "The Lady In Red", about his wife, Diane, hit number one in 25 countries, but his popularity has been most enduring outside the UK and US.

In 1991, after the first Gulf War, he fronted Jeffrey Archer's The Simple Truth campaign and led a Band Aid-style concert that raised money for Kurdish refugees.

De Burgh fans hope that a concert in Iran will mark a cultural breakthrough akin to Wham's 1985 performance in China, or be as symbolic of cultural change as was David Hasselhoff's performace atop the breached Berlin Wall on German reunification.

Messages from Iranians were collecting on the star's website last night. One said he would not believe the number of fans he has in the country, while another from Tehran wrote: "Iranians will welcome you with open hearts and baskets of flowers, thanks to decades of nice memories with your lovely songs. Please come soon. Time is passing so slowly."

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