Springsteen Heals U.S.-German Wounds with Concert
BERLIN (Reuters) – Bruce Springsteen made a contribution to repairing tattered German-American relations on Sunday with a riveting rock concert and polished German phrases not heard since John F. Kennedy called himself a Berliner.
The veteran American rocker, halfway through a four-month world tour performing songs from his hit album “The Rising,” helped patch up some of the damage caused by U.S. anger over the German government’s staunch opposition to war against Iraq.
Speaking in surprisingly clear German to the crowd of 15,000, Springsteen delighted the sold-out arena with his usual sweat-filled marathon effort of nearly three hours and an appeal for peace.
“Guten Abend Deutschland (Good evening Germany),” Springsteen said with an American accent that recalled Kennedy’s stirring “Ich bin ein Berliner” 1963 speech of solidarity to the people of West Berlin shortly after the Berlin Wall was built.
“Are you ready to sing?” Springsteen added in practiced German that triggered roars of approval. He has spoken similar lines in French and Spanish at recent European concerts.
Although Springsteen did not mention the friction between George W. Bush’s administration and the German government following Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s outspoken opposition to any American-led “military adventures” in Iraq, he made sure the crowd understood his message.
“I wrote this song about the Vietnam War,” Springsteen said as he introduced “Born in the U.S.A.,” his anti-war anthem. “I want to do it for you tonight for peace.”
Bush has ignored Schroeder since the pacifist eruption and even broke diplomatic customs by not congratulating the German leader on his re-election in September. Bush officials said relations between Germany and the United States were “poisoned.”
“America can keep Bush but Springsteen can come back here as often as he wants,” said Rumen Milkov, 36, who saw his first Springsteen concert with 160,000 other East Germans in East Berlin in 1988 — just a year before the Berlin Wall collapsed.
“Bush’s saber-rattling makes us all nervous,” he added.
The band is just beyond the midway point of a tour that began in his New Jersey in August, includes seven European stops and concludes in New York state in December.
In Berlin, Springsteen and his E Street Bank mixed “The Rising” with old favorites in the 25-song set.
“The Rising” is the 52-year-old working class hero’s attempt to come to terms with the September 11 attacks on the United States, somber songs about loss striking a chord in Germany where Springsteen and his dark themes have long been popular.
“I don’t necessarily think that we artists can to put things on this planet back in order, but I can’t help thinking that we are sometimes at least capable of making things a little bit more bearable,” he said in a rare interview recently with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.
“The Rising” includes the tracks “Into the Fire,” which Springsteen wrote after the suicide hijackings killed some 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and “My City of Ruins” that Springsteen dedicated to New York after September 11.
Springsteen has rejected suggestions that “The Rising” was exploiting September 11 for commerce.
“A few days after the attack a man rolled down the window of his car as I was walking across a parking lot near the beach in New Jersey and shouted ‘We need you’,” Springsteen said. “I later found out he lost a good friend on September 11. That’s what encouraged me to get involved.”