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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

Kerry supported by The Boss

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor

Friday, October 8, 2004

Crowds of ACT (America Coming Together) volunteers swarmed the Xcel Center's outer pavilion Tuesday night, hoping to coax unregistered voters to remedy their noncommittal statuses prior to the Nov. 2. elections. ACT's presence at the Xcel was not warranted for any sort of political convention, however; Oct. 5 was the night of the monumental Vote for Change concert, on its third-to-last stop through the swing states, bringing Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., John Fogerty and Bright Eyes to St. Paul for an evening of music and politics. After a few brief opening statements by Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, Bright Eyes (aka Conor Oberst) took the stage to a still-filing-in crowd. He maintained a whiny, monotonous vibrato throughout his half-hour-long set of songs, most of which sounded more spoken than sung. He even seemed on the verge of tears during Old Soul Song. It was then that he paused only briefly to make a terse political statement. "I can't imagine another four years ... [with these] crazy people running the country," he said. "Let's do this together -- I'm looking for a landslide, but I'll settle for a win." As the lights rose to accommodate stage set changes, the voice of Bonnie Raitt flooded the arena as the first of several video clips began playing on the two large monitors flanking both sides of the stage. The clips showed a dozen or so of the Vote for Change musicians -- Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and The Boss himself, to name a few -- commenting on their dissatisfaction with the current government and the need for voters to make their voices heard this November. In between clips, the screens flashed the mission statement of the tour; it read: "Vote for Change is a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea: the need to make a change in the direction of our country." The statement went on to describe the need for a government that is open, rational, progressive and humane and to reinforce that this November will decide the most important election of our lifetime. As the lights dimmed, the crowd raised their cheers in preparation for R.E.M. As Stipe, bassist Mills and guitarist Peter Buck took their places across the stage, The Boss appeared at one of the microphones to introduce them. "One of the reasons I did the tour was because I got to work with [R.E.M.]," Springsteen said.

R.E.M. began their frenzied set with the fan-favorite "The One I Love". A white-clad Michael Stipe gesticulated crazily across the stage. His wild arm movements served only to enhance the force of his vocals, however; when the opening guitar riffs of the next song, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" came over the speakers, the crowd knew they were in for a truly solid musical display. The set mellowed as the group played the slow and lovely "Leaving New York" from their recently released album Around the Sun. Stipe then paused to make one of the evening's many anti-Bush comments. He proceeded to prophesize that through the power of the democratic vote, America would be able to cut through what he characterized as the inclement weather of America's current political situation. The band proceeded through several more songs, including the emotional Final Straw, which brought Stipe to tears. Then, in an unforgettable surprise appearance, Neil Young accompanied Stipe's vocals with his famous, edgy guitar on "Country Feedback." The performance of Feedback was a wonderfully shocking moment. Young wove across the stage, pounding erratically on his instrument as his stringy, shoulder-length hair obscured his face. Then, Young was gone. Stipe took the microphone to make a few more comments. While the Vote for Change musicians have never pledged their allegiance to the Democratic Party outright, Stipe commented that their candidate of choice was clearly Senator John Kerry. R.E.M. rounded out their set with "Losing My Religion," followed by Picture, for which Stipe called the Boss out for extra guitar accompaniment. Springsteen stayed for "Man in the Moon," alternating verses with Stipe as the audience jumped and waved their arms wildly at the sight of the dynamic duo. Springsteen and his E Street Band finally took to the stage for their set, which Springsteen kicked off with a solo guitar rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." The music could barely be heard over the deafening roar of the crowd. Then, the E Street Band pounded out song after song of fast-paced hits, from "Badlands" to "No Surrender." "On Lonesome Day," a hit from the Sept. 11-inspired album The Rising, Springsteen sang the refrain of "It's all right" in a way that seemingly reassured the audience that America's current political turmoil would soon be over. The din of the crowd dwindled as the pace slowed and Springsteen sung the blue-collar memoir "The River" with his characteristic, almost palpable desperation and soul. His haunting harmonica, paired with a soft fiddle, was one of the most memorable sounds of the evening. The trance broke as Springsteen addressed the audience. "Are there any Canadians for Kerry in the house?" he said. Out walked Young, back for more. Their duet lasted through "All Along the Watchtower," at which point Young was rocking so hard that it seemed he would never stop.

After Watchtower, Springsteen invited John Fogerty, the former lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, to play a trio of songs. After playing a song from his latest album, Deja Vu All Over Again, Fogerty ended with "Fortunate Son," with Springsteen assisting on vocals. The Boss then played the title track from The Rising and invited Stipe back for assistance on the rousing Because the Night. Everyone exited the stage, and the audience held lighters and chanted in anticipation of an encore. It began with an energizing, powerfully upbeat rendition of Mary's Place, during which The Boss imitated a fundamentalist preacher and performed an exorcism on a man in a conservative business suit. The Boss asked the crowed to shout "Halliburton" five times fast, until the man was healed, holding up a sign saying Bush Must Go. After an amazing and energetic rendition of "Born to Run," all of the evening's musicians took the stage for what is likely to have been one of the most memorable rock and roll performances in history. With Young on lead vocals, the musicians belted out "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," as the crowd shook their fists and sang along. The show lasted past midnight, and in the end, the musicians thanked the audience for their support, took a collective bow and waved goodbye as they filtered off of the stage. "The country we carry around in our hearts is waiting," Springsteen said. The left-leaning audience got a glimpse of that beloved country during the evening's incendiary, four-hour concert for change.

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