Vote For Change :: 10.01.04 :: Wachovia Arena :: Philadelphia, PA

The Vote For Change tour kicked off in the great state of Pennsylvania on Friday night October 1, one night after the first of three debates between President Bush and Senator John Kerry. While Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, R.E.M., and Bright Eyes were in Philadelphia, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, John Mellencamp, My Morning Jacket, James Taylor and a host of others were spread throughout Pennsylvania, the first state to host the 30-city plus tour organized by

The conversations overheard in the parking lots outside Wachovia Arena in Philadelphia were dominated by political analysis rather than music, but inside the focus was clearly on rock 'n' roll.

The Boss
Bruce Springsteen and Michael Stipe came out to welcome the sold-out crowd to the show as Bruce explained that this night is not about him. "Don't chant my name, no 'Bruuuuuucing,' or I will come out there and personally smack you," he chided. Bruce then introduced Bright Eyes, led by 24-year old Omaha native Conor Oberst. Oberst and his band of rotating musicians whipped through a solid opening set with a public service announcement that was very straight and to the point: "War, fuck that."

Up next was R.E.M., a band that's no stranger to fighting for a cause. Opening with "The One I Love," their hour-long set featured a rare concert performance of "World Leader Pretend," which held quite the poignant message on this night. Singer Michael Stipe left little doubt to what he was there for, dressed for the evening in a white suit highlighted by a John Kerry t-shirt. Stipe spent most of the time in between songs pushing his favorite candidate and delved into some newer material like "Around the Sun." The new songs and the political overtones seemed to lose the crowd, but business was about to pick up.

Finishing off the show with the strong MTV smash "Losing My Religion," the band brought the question to mind, "What is more impressive then Mr. Fred Blassie in the wrestling ring? Bruce Springsteen joining R.E.M. for 'Man on the Moon.'" Now it was time for what the people paid the big bucks to see.

Michael Stipe
The E-Street band strutted out on stage to a huge ovation, but Bruce quickly brought things down as he began the night with a slide acoustic rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." Then came a triple threat--"Born in the USA," the fist pumping "Badlands," and the song John Kerry has taken as his rallying cry, "No Surrender." Continuing the fun, Bruce and The E Street Band then brought the rising classic "Lonesome Day."

Songs that at one time spoke of cars and racing in Jersey were transfixed with new meaning on this night. "Lost in the Flood" from their first album Greetings From Asbury Park is 30 years old, but came across as if it was written yesterday in response to the war in Iraq. The Boss' classic contains lines like "Hey kid, you think that's oil, that ain't oil that's blood," and asks the compelling question "Have thrown your senses to the war, or did you lose them in the flood?"

Bruce kept true to the classic stories with rocking renditions of "Johnny 99" and "Youngstown." Then, inviting out Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty to the stage complete with baseball bat guitar, Bruce and the band ripped through American anthems "Centerfield" and the politically charged "Fortunate Son." John Stayed on and traded vocals with the Boss on the E-Street Bands "Promised Land," another song adopted by the Kerry campaign.

Up next came healing words of "The Rising" followed by an energetic "Because the Night" with Michel Stipe joining in. The house party was coming to a close when the E-Street band partied on "Mary's Place" then Bruce took it all to new heights, inviting R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and Peter Buck up for the unofficial New Jersey state anthem "Born to Run" to close the set. But if you know Bruce, you know it definitely didn't stop there. He then invited all the bands up for a rocking set of encores that kicked off with "Proud Mary" and was then followed by one of Elvis Costello's great rock question "What's So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?"

Everyone then got together to finish it all with a reminder of the reason behind this great event, a version of Patti Smith's "The People got the Power"--the most important statement in a most important time.

Jason Abrams
JamBase | Pennsylvania
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[Published on: 10/12/04]

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