Springsteen Kicks Off ‘Vote for Change’
PHILADELPHIA – Two of the biggest forces in rock music over the last 20 years were plugging in the amplifiers Friday to kick off a high-volume effort to oust President Bush on Nov. 2.
Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. brought a dose of music and politics to the Wachovia Center, starting a 10-day series of “Vote For Change” shows in battleground states. With a long list of high-profile artists from across the generational divide, the concerts will raise money for efforts to defeat Bush and other Republicans in next month’s elections.
The Philadelphia show was one of six “Vote For Change” concerts scheduled across Pennsylvania on Friday night. On the other end of the state, the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor were to perform in Pittsburgh, with other concerts in Erie, State College, Reading and Wilkes-Barre.
Springsteen and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe took the stage to cheers Friday to introduce the first band, Bright Eyes, and also reminded the crowd of the importance of voting Nov. 2.
“This is a very important moment for every one of us and for our country,” Stipe said.
Fans lining up before the concert said they were definitely there for the music, but that the current political scene made them even more enthusiastic about supporting the artists.
Steve St. Germain, 54, of Point Pleasant, N.J., a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, says he can’t stand Bush and is outraged about the Iraq war.
“I feel that man has gone crazy with an unjust war, wasting American lives, killing innocent women and children and spending money we can’t afford to spend,” he said.
Leon Berkowitz, 41, a New Jersey native now living in Virginia, says he admires Springsteen and others for their political stance.
“I think he’s taking a lot of responsibility, putting himself out there, saying what he’s for,” he said. “I think if Bush gets re-elected, it’s going to be horrible.”
The tour will also make stops in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Washington, Arizona and Washington, D.C.
But not all fans at the Philadelphia concert agreed with the artists’ politics.
Michelle Peters, 20, of Laurel Springs, N.J. said she was just there for the music and that she planned to vote for Bush. “I think Kerry lies,” said Peters, who attended with three friends who are Kerry supporters. “I wanted to wear a Bush/Cheney sticker, but I think I’d get beat up for it.”
Eli Pariser, executive director of political action committee and tour sponsor MoveOn PAC, said the tour’s political message shouldn’t surprise most concertgoers.
“These are people who are the town criers. Sometimes they’re singing about relationships and sometimes about the environment,” Pariser said.
The tour, also featuring Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp and others, includes 37 shows in 30 cities through Oct. 11. Proceeds will go to America Coming Together, or ACT, a group raising money for Democratic candidates. Voter registration information will be available during the concerts.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said he wants to convince voters that the Bush administration has been reckless in its foreign policy since Sept. 11.
“For me, personally, I very much want John Kerry to win,” Gossard said in an interview. “I think that he’s expressed an interest in re-engaging the world community and saying the last administration is not representative of the way America wants to do business with the world.”
Bands on the tour span many musical categories as well as the generations. John Fogerty, the former leader of Credence Clearwater Revival in the 1960s and 1970s, and James Taylor, whose folk star status began in the 1960s, will be on the same bill as R&B singer/songwriter/producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, whose fame didn’t come until the 1980s and 1990s.