"My point of view is pretty simple, said Bruce Springsteen on an overhead screen prior to the "Vote For Change Concert opening, "I think that if you mislead the country, and you take the nation to war, and you put our sons and daughters on the line and the basis on which you have taken the country to war proves false, you lose your job. It's not rocket science. When you do that, you lose your job. "
I could not have said it better or more clearly than the Boss laid it out for us at the "Vote For Change Concerts" last night in Philadelphia. These opening comments included remarks from Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder, and members of R.E.M. They were one small piece of an inspiring evening that began with an army of Moveon.Org members canvassing the arriving crowds of fans for volunteers or voter registration. Pro-Kerry and anti-Bush shirts were everywhere, including my "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican." I got many thumbs up and kudos for that one. The "Bushit" stickers abounded, too.
Following the comments on the overhead screen, Bruce and Michael Stipe gave a brief introduction for the evening's cause; the need for a more PROGRESSIVE leadership, then brought out "Bright Eyes" for a solid opening performance.
Then Bruce introduced R.E.M., who opened with "One I Love," followed by their typically strong live show. The set list included "Losing My Religion," with the crowd in full voice, and "Man On the Moon," which Springsteen joined in on.
But the highlights of the show were still ahead of us. Fifteen minutes after R.E.M wrapped up, the spotlight honed in on the singular figure of Bruce Springsteen, dressed in black, with just his guitar, performing a rousing rendition of the Star Bangled Banner, a la Jimi Hendrix. The crowd was in a patriotic frenzy right away. The E Street Band then launched into the anti-war "Born In the U.S.A.," the song misinterpreted by President Reagan twenty years ago.
Springsteen later added some songs of social and economic distress, "Youngstown" and "Johnny 99," to the show, following them with the Kerry campaign favorite, "No Surrender." Then the evening really took off as Bruce brought out John Fogerty. Springsteen and Fogerty sang "Deja Vu" and the overwhelmingly potent, "Fortunate Son," among others. Bruce also later added "Promised Land."
During "Mary's Place," Springsteen went into his patented "music preacher mode." If you have never seen him live, he does this alot and it is fantastic. This time, though, in midstream, he called out for someone to be converted. A man in a suit and tie, looking strikingly like Dick Cheney, walked out. Bruce touched his forehead as the man fell to the floor. Springsteen said, "Now say Halliburton three times and heal!" The man rose and said, "I am converted and am voting for change!" A thing of beauty!
The four hour concert wound down with an encore performance of the Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello song, "Peace, Love and Understanding," and the Patti Smith hit, "People Have the Power," performed by all the night's entertainers. Bruce led it with the (paraphrased) message that the "Promise of America is within us."
The show was an unquestioned success. Joined by other shows throughout Pennsylvania, led by John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Pearl Jam, and Bonnie Raitt, that will also hit other swing states, the messages were clear: Love of country does not belong to one party, this nation needs a change and new leadership to bring it about, and we ALL must get involved and do our part to make those changes possible.