The singer, whose songs became anthems for student pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989 and who was banned until recently, needed help from Sir Mick Jagger with the lyrics of "Wild Horses" but his appearance was a highlight for the few Chinese in the mainly expatriate crowd.
Cui said Saturday's concert was a "milestone" for rock 'n' roll in China, which he says needs five years to really find its audience. For many years it was considered "spiritual pollution" and not tolerated by the government. "It is a big moment. I will never forget this," Cui said.
His "Nothing to My Name", released in 1986, was the first rock song to make waves in China and was adopted by the student demonstrators on Tiananmen Square three years later. "A Piece of Red Cloth", which he performed wearing a blindfold, angered the government and for 15 years after the bloody crackdown in Beijing Cui was, in effect, banned from large venues in China. No promoter would touch him, despite a big following in China.
His rehabilitation began when he supported Deep Purple in Shanghai in 2004 and his last album,Show You Colour, was passed uncensored. In September last year he played a concert in the Workers' Stadium in Beijing.
But he is still not to everyone's taste in authority. When the Chinese Rolling Stone magazine was banned last month, many said having Cui's features emblazoned in red and gold on the front cannot have helped.
Ticket prices for Saturday were beyond the pockets of most Chinese, costing from £21 to £210 for VIP tickets. The audience was largely Western.
"Dajia hao ma (How you doing)? It's nice to be here, the first time we've played in China," Sir Mick told the 8,000-strong audience.
Censors reportedly told the veteran rockers they could not perform five songs, including "Honky Tonk Woman", "Brown Sugar" and "Let's Spend the Night Together" because of their risqué lyrics. In the end the band opened with the raunchy "Start Me Up". Sir Mick alluded to the ban before the show.
"I'm pleased the Ministry of Culture is doing so much to protect the morals of expatriate bankers and their girlfriends. Fortunately, we have 400 more songs that we can play so it's not really an issue," he had said.
Debbie Beswick, originally from Bakewell in Derbyshire and who now lives in Shanghai with her husband Steve, said: "The censorship didn't detract from the show. It's a different country. There weren't a lot of locals, the tickets were very expensive. I think it would have been nice to involve the locals more."Reuse content