Article 2004-10-01 Philadelphia, PA

Underdog Anthems On a Patriotic Theme

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 1 - "The Star-Spangled Banner" rang out from Bruce Springsteen's 12-string guitar as he started his set at the Wachovia Center here tonight. It was a statement of patriotism and populism on his first night of stumping the swing states to support Sen. John Kerry — — or, more precisely, to urge a vote to unseat President Bush. His concert, which also featured John Fogerty, R.E.M. and Bright Eyes, was part of six simultaneous tours, called Vote for Change, that are to converge in Washington on Oct. 11.

"If you're swinging, if you're swaying, if you're switching, if you're swooping, if you just can't make up your mind!" Mr. Springsteen exhorted during "Mary's Place" like a rock 'n' roll preacher. "Be saved! It's not too late!"

For the next 10 days, million-selling musicians including Mr. Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt and John Mellencamp will be headlining concerts in closely contested states.

The Vote for Change tour will reach 33 cities in 11 states, concluding on Oct. 11 at the MCI Center in Washington with a concert by 13 of the headliners. That show will also include Mr. Fogerty, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Keb Mo', Kenneth Babyface Edmonds and the hip-hop group Jurassic 5, and it will be televised on the Sundance cable channel.

The concerts are benefits for America Coming Together, a voter-mobilization effort, and they are presented by the liberal political action committee MoveOn.org. The tour is the first time that Mr. Springsteen has made a partisan stand in his three-decade career.

His set chimed with the full brawn of the E Street Band in a string of underdog anthems: "Born in the U.S.A.," "Badlands," "Lonesome Day," "Johnny 99," "Youngstown," "The Rising," "Promised Land" and "No Surrender," a song Sen. Kerry has played at his rallies.

For their sets, the folk-rock bands R.E.M. and Bright Eyes juxtaposed political observations with private dilemmas, sometimes within the same song.

"These are people who are the best experts at connecting with the American public, people who have had an emotional connection with millions of people for years," said Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.

"It does take some courage in this climate to stand up and do what they're doing. A lot of them have been galvanized by the kind of extremist repressive response that they've seen. They're not going to be silenced."

The Dixie Chicks, who started their part of the tour tonight in Pittsburgh, faced radio-station boycotts and a talk-show furor last year after their lead singer, Natalie Maines, disparaged President Bush onstage.

"We have nothing to lose at this point, so any sort of fear or inhibition is out the window," Ms. Maines said by telephone this week.

It is a complex enough undertaking to gather million-selling musicians for a one-day event like Live Aid or Mr. Mellencamp's annual Farm Aid. Arranging six simultaneous weeklong benefit tours by such popular musicians is probably unprecedented. There is no comparable undertaking on the Republican side. The musicians aren't playing their standard sets; they are including more political songs and collaborating with the other musicians on the bill.

All six shows on the tour go to Ohio on Saturday, Michigan on Sunday and Florida next Friday; shows on Tuesday and Wednesday are in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri.

At the Springsteen concert, old protests met new ones. Mr. Fogerty sang his old declaration of class warfare, "Fortunate Son," after his new song comparing the Iraq war to Vietnam, "Déjà Vu All Over Again." The concert wound up with two perennials: Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny? (About Peace, Love and Understanding)" and Patti Smith's "People Have the Power": one cranky, one utopian, both aiming for an arena-scale populist sing-along.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.

Bruce, Dave, R.E.M. Swing

The day after the first presidential debate, the Vote for Change tour kicked off with six multi-artist bills in key “swing states.” The performers — including Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam and Bonnie Raitt — advocated voter participation, specifically in support of Senator John Kerry.

The star-studded tour visited Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan over the weekend and will continue this week through Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida. In total, there will be thirty-seven concerts in thirty cities before the tour wraps with an all-star finale featuring thirteen of the tour’s headliners in Washington, D.C., on October 11th. That concert will be broadcast on the Sundance Channel, and proceeds from all shows will go to America Coming Together (ACT), a grassroots voter contact program in support of the Democratic candidate.

Here are some highlights from the weekend’s shows:

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band/R.E.M./Bright Eyes:

In Philadelphia on Friday, Springsteen began the E Street Band’s nineteen-song set with a solo rendition of the national anthem on acoustic guitar. Springsteen and his banded wasted no time trotting out politically charged favorites like “Born in the U.S.A,” “Badlands” and “No Surrender,” Kerry’s unofficial campaign song.

Two hours into his set, Springsteen addressed the audience: “I know you all have been waiting for my public service announcement. We live in a land of great promise, but it’s time to move Americans to embrace the great promises that she made to her citizens.”

R.E.M. preceded Springsteen with an hour-long set, comprising staples like “The One I Love” and newer songs like “Bad Day” and “Final Straw,” a protest song originally released online in 2003 after the beginning of the Iraq invasion; the song will be included on the band’s new album, Around the Sun, due this Tuesday.

Springsteen was also joined onstage by John Fogerty, who performed his new Iraq-as-Vietnam protest song, “Deja Vu (All Over Again).” Fogerty aided Springsteen on “Centerfield” and charged through “Fortunate Son,” his most famous political anthem; he also led the E Street Band through “Proud Mary.” Fogerty and Springsteen traded verses later on “The Promised Land.”

Other collaborations came early in the evening with Springsteen playing guitar with R.E.M. on the band’s “Man on the Moon.” Members of R.E.M. later joined Springsteen on “Born to Run.” And the show closed with all performers joining in on Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” and Patti Smith’s galvanizing “People Have the Power.”

Opening act Bright Eyes (a.k.a. Conor Oberst) was especially direct in his political rhetoric, remarking, “A vote for Bush is like shitting in your own bed.”

[…]

By Brian Orloff via Rolling Stone.
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