Twenty years after releasing “Born in the U.S.A.,” Bruce Springsteen returned to the anti-war anthem as he and other artists kicked off a multistate tour aimed at helping oust President Bush.
Springsteen and R.E.M., both vocal critics of Bush and the war in Iraq, are the headliners for the “Vote for Change” tour, a 10-day series of shows in battleground states. Friday night’s performance at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia was one of six across Pennsylvania.
Springsteen and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe introduced the first band, Bright Eyes, and reminded the crowd of the importance of voting November 2.
“This is a very important moment for every one of us and for our country,” Stipe said.
Springsteen opened his set with a solo version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by “Born in the U.S.A.”
“I hope everybody saw the debate (Thursday) night,” Springsteen said at one point, adding that he thought Democratic candidate John Kerry did well. “We’re on a roll now.”
During R.E.M.’s hourlong set, Stipe occasionally offered political comments. Introducing a song called “Final Straw” that was released the week the United States declared war on Iraq, he said: “Did anyone watch the debates last night?” Thousands in the packed stadium cheered loudly, many raising their hands.
At the other end of the state, the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor performed in Pittsburgh. Other concerts were held in Erie, State College, Reading and Wilkes-Barre.
“I think our guy did really pretty good last night,” Taylor said of Kerry’s debate performance. He advised undecided voters to “take a real close look at both of the candidates and then vote for the smart one.”
Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, once criticized for saying she was ashamed to share her home state of Texas with Bush, noted that a few people booed Taylor’s assessment of Kerry’s debate performance.
“We don’t feel at home unless we hear some boos, so you’re welcome,” she said.
The tour, also featuring Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Mellencamp and others, includes 37 shows in 30 cities through October 11.
Proceeds will go to America Coming Together, or ACT, a group raising money for Democratic candidates. Organizers said 90 percent of the shows, including the one in Philadelphia, were sold out as of Friday.
The tour will also make stops in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Washington, Arizona and Washington, D.C.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said he wants to convince voters that the Bush administration has been reckless in its foreign policy since September 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.”