Thursday, October 14, 2004

Vote For Change Concert's Final Performance

The last show of the "Vote For Change Concert" series took place in the Meadowlands in New Jersey last night, and what a show it was! Led by Bruce Springsteen's unyielding energy and force, the performance was at once inspiring and also demanding; demanding of a more progressive government. If the night's acts could not get the people to vote for change with their words, they would do so with shear determination.

Springsteen led the charge with remarks about New Jersey being a swing state. He mentioned how he had woken up one morning for breakfast and saw in the newspaper that the polls in New Jersey were too close to call and that his beloved "Jersey" had become a state in play. His response was, "What the hell are we doing?!" He said his first thoughts were to "get to the Meadowlands now!" He added, "If you're swinging. If you're swaying. Release the burdens of Republicanism. Be saved!" He asked for volunteers to get out on the streets so that this country could remain the land of great promise that it is.

But the evening was about great music and the night began with Patti Scialfa, Bruce's wife, opening up with a strong set. Her performance included popular renditions of "Rumble Doll" and "23rd Street Lullaby," as well as "As Long As I," which Springsteen joined in on. Scialfa also spoke briefly, stating that "women should not vote with fear, but should vote from strength."

Jackson Browne followed Scialfa onto the stage with a set that started slowly, including a dedication to Daniel Pearl and "Fountain of Sorrow," but quickly built momentum. Browne noted that people had referred to his songs as being more in the form of a speech at times, and he immediately launched into the gentle, yet forcefully haunting, "Lives in the Balance."

"And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs"

"They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die

Browne then slid right into a song of patriotic hope mixed with frustration, "For America," before adding the classic "The Pretender" to the night's set list. It then was guest time as Browne brought out Steve Van Zandt for a performance of Little Steven's "I am a Patriot."

"I am a Patriot
And I love my country
Because my country
Is all I know

This was followed by "Running On Empty," which Springsteen joined in on for a truly classic collaboration, and a spirited ending to Jackson Browne's performance.

Shortly thereafter, Bruce Springsteen took to the stage with a soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner performed alone on his guitar. The band joined in for the anti-war, "Born in the USA," with Springsteen leading the charge of the combined message of the mistakes of an administration with too much power and the broken dreams of the people that that power leads to.

Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam, joined Springsteen early in the set for a raucous performance of Springsteen's "No Surrender" and "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Vedder also led the E Street Band in Pearl Jam's "Better Man."

After Springsteen sang "Johnny 99," a song of economic despair that turns to tragedy, John Fogerty joined the act. Fogerty played three songs with Springsteen, including the gripping "Fortunate Son," bringing comparisons to George Bush and his life of unearned rewards mixed with the passing of sacrifice to others that has marked Bush's entire rise to power.

The show continued on with high voltage performances of "The Rising" by Springsteen, "Racing in the Streets," with Springsteen and Browne and "Mary's Place," where Springsteen fell into his popular preacher mode. He reminded the crowd that John Kerry and John Edwards would honor the important issues facing our nation and would move the country forward. He added that "America is not always right, but should always be true," a sharp rebuke of the Bush Administration. He voiced disdain for "dime store patriotism," before launching into a "take no prisoners" version of "Born to Run."

The seemingly exhausted crowd found new energy as Springsteen and Fogerty took the stage for an encore set of Creedence classics - "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Travelin' Band." The night ended with all the performers joining forces for Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love and Understanding," before the climactic Patti Smith song, "People Have the Power," and its symbolism of what we can accomplish if we realize the strength that we all possess. It says "to wrestle the world from fools." What a fitting ending to a show where the raw energy of rock and roll, combined with a message of change, brought the house, and hopefully the Bush Administration, down to its knees.

Springsteen's Set List:
Instrumental Star Spangled Banner
Born in the USA
Lonesome Day
No Surrender with Eddie Vedder
Darkness on the Edge of Town with Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder/Springsteen - Better Man
Johnny 99
John Fogerty/Springsteen - Centerfield
John Fogerty - Deja Vu
John Fogerty/Springsteen - Fortunate Son
The Rising
Racing in the Streets with Jackson Browne
Mary's Place
Born to Run
John Fogerty/Springsteen - Proud Mary
John Fogerty/Springsteen - Bad Moon Rising
John Fogerty/Springsteen - Travelin' Band
All - Peace, Love and Understanding
All - People Have the Power

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