Article 1988-09-13 San José, Costa Rica

The Costa Ricans Rock, but Some Just Shake

Cultures clashed but youth won out as a phalanx of rock stars descended on Costa Rica for a concert the like of which has never been seen here.

This is a placid and in many respects conservative country, and some guardians of morality warned that live rock music would send young Costa Ricans on the road to depravity and devil worship. But such fears were no match for the drawing power of Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Sting and the other performers who came here a few days ago as part of a worldwide tour aimed at publicizing and encouraging the work of the human rights group Amnesty International.

The performers' decision to visit Costa Rica, which is far off the beaten rock 'n' roll path, was a salute to the democracy that has flowered here. It was also a gesture of support for President Oscar Arias Sanchez, who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to pacify Central America.

At an anti-drug rally this month, however, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, Roman Arrieta, said he was worried about ''possible dangers'' associated with the concert. A newspaper columnist asserted that rock music stimulates ''violence, depression or a combination of both.'' And a group of parents issued a declaration saying such music was characterized by ''subversive energy with erotic overtones, in an environment of base passions and evil.'' A Cause of Amazement

The arrival of the performers, accompanied by tons of equipment and a 250-member entourage, was something utterly new to Costa Ricans. Local journalists marveled at the speed and efficiency with which the crew erected scaffolding and placed giant loudspeakers and lights at the front of a local soccer stadium. On the eve of the concert, the performers visited Mr. Arias at the presidential palace. ''I reassured him that none of us are Satanists,'' Sting said afterward. ''He said he would pass the message along to the Archbishop.''

On the morning of the concert San Jose was buffeted by high winds and awash in rain. The sky never cleared, but the rain became intermittent and the show went on.

The audience of 30,000, made up almost entirely of young people, filled three-quarters of the stadium. Many spectators crowded onto the field, where they stood for the concert's entire eight hours. They were animated and responsive, but tour organizers said they seemed positively restrained compared to more experienced crowds in other cities.

The tour, which opened Sept. 2 in London and is scheduled to end Oct. 15 in Argentina, has been timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Copies of the declaration were circulated at the concert, and volunteers collected signatures on petitions urging governments to respect it. Exiles With a Message

Exiles from neighboring countries brought their own messages to the stadium. One group carried a sign reading ''Panama Without Noriega'' and another unfurled a banner that said, ''Human Rights Are Violated in Nicaragua: 10,000 Political Prisoners.''

Speaking in memorized Spanish, Mr. Springsteen, who performed a 90-minute set, defended his music's social value. ''When I was a boy, rock 'n' roll made me dream,'' he said. ''There were dreams of life and love, dreams of human possibilities, dreams of sex, but above all dreams of freedom. That is the dream that brings us to Costa Rica tonight. If you believe one person can make a difference and that the human spirit is strong, join with Amnesty International to defend human rights, and let the voice of freedom be heard more loudly.''

There was little if any of the rowdiness, drug abuse or licentiousness that some Costa Ricans had feared. But despite the concert's success, no one predicted that the country sometimes described as ''nice little Costa Rica'' would become a regular stop on future tours by the titans of rock.

''We don't care about the rain because this will never happen here again,'' one customer said.

By Stephen Kinzer via The New York Times.
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