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Inside Politics

Musicians rock for Kerry

Browne, Mellencamp, Raitt, R.E.M., others raise millions

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some of the biggest names in rock and roll raised millions of dollars in the nation's capital on Monday with a marathon concert aimed at getting out the vote for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., the Dixie Chicks, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp and John Fogerty led a troupe of artists before a crowd of about 20,000 fans at the MCI Center.

It was the final stop on the Vote for Change tour, which has staged shows in 11 states.

Monday's show was the first that involved all of the tour's headliners.

Over the past two weeks, they had performed separately or in pairs in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia, Arizona and Washington state.

"We're here tonight with a mission, we're here tonight with a purpose," Springsteen told the crowd near the end of his hour set, the longest of the evening. "When I hear all the talk about swing voters," he continued, "It's October 11th. What the hell are you waiting for?"

Most of the artists made brief political remarks to the crowd and a nationwide TV audience tuned in on the Sundance Channel.

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks addressed the trio's ban from airplay on Cumulus Media Inc. radio stations last year after band members made comments in opposition to the Iraq war.

"After the incident, people asked me, 'Do you want to take back what you said or apologize?' " she told the crowd, whose members responded, "No!"

"If I did that, Bush would call me a flip-flopper," Maines continued. "So I'm sticking to it!"

John Mellencamp, whose "Small Town" and "Your Life is Now" have been theme songs for vice presidential candidate John Edwards, derided what he said have been chills on free speech under the Bush administration.

"It's our duty to challenge the government," Mellencamp said. "Recently, if you challenged the government you've been called a traitor, and I think that's wrong."

Most of all, the artists urged their fans to vote on November 2, and to do so to remove President Bush from office.

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, wore a T-shirt with Bush's face. Above it said "Expired." Below it said "Nov. 04."

"It seems like we got the message across," Vedder told the crowd, "that everyone is going to vote." With all the talk of a "new world" starting on November 3, Vedder said he wanted a visual reminder that election day is on the second day of the month.

"Put up your hands and tell them what day it's on," he said. The band and crowd flashed a peace sign. "That's what I'm talking about."

Longtime political activists Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt played together with blues artist Keb Mo. Browne wore a T-shirt with a dove that said "Vote."

"So much hope in the room and out there in the country," Raitt told the crowd.

Browne, Raitt and Mo played Buffalo Springfield's 1967 anthem "For What It's Worth," about loss of innocence and its replacement with fear and violence.

Pearl Jam played Bob Dylan's "Masters of War."

The Dixie Chicks sang with James Taylor, who uttered perhaps the evening's harshest dig toward President Bush. "I hate it when they say 'Don't change horses in midstream' ... if your horse can't swim and he's way over his head," Taylor said.

"Look at the two candidates," he told undecided voters, "And you choose the smart one."

R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe appeared in a white suit with a Kerry T-shirt that he revealed during the concert finale.

"We're R.E.M. and we approve this concert," Stipe said as the Georgia band launched into its set, highlighted by Springsteen joining them for "Man on the Moon."

"There's a lot of work to be done," Stipe told the crowd. "It's up to you."

Springsteen returned to the stage with a solo acoustic version of the "Star Spangled Banner" before his E-Street Band joined him. They plowed through the Vietnam-infused "Born in the USA" and "No Surrender," which has become Kerry's campaign theme song.

"We remain a land of great promise, but we must move on," Springsteen told the crowd. He said the issues that motivated him to engage in the first partisan political activity of his 30-year career included concerns about civil rights, the environment, instituting a living wage and "humility in exercising our power around the world."

"America is not always right. That's a fairy tale for children," he said.

All the artists packed the stage for two encores: Elvis Costello's Nick Lowe-written "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?" followed by Patti Smith's "People Have the Power."

Tickets cost $75 to $180, though some concertgoers paid more for VIP access.

Proceeds went to America Coming Together, a Democratic group targeting voters in swing states in an effort to defeat Bush in November.

Sarah Leonard, a spokeswoman for ACT, which has paid canvassers in 17 states, said the tour grossed $15 million, selling 250,000 tickets at 38 shows.

New Jersey, which recently emerged as a contested state, is the site of the final performance Wednesday by Browne, Raitt, Fogerty and Springsteen, who is from the state.

Democrats have no lock on the music world.

A number of performers have expressed support for Bush, including Reba McIntyre, Wayne Newton, Pat Boone, Alice Cooper, Lee Ann Womack, Britney Spears, Kid Rock, Toby Keith, Ricky Scaggs, Brooks and Dunn, Martina McBride, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, Randy Travis and the Gatlin Brothers.


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