Bruce pays Orlando a rocking visit

Orlando Sentinel, 2004-10-09, by: Jennifer Kay
Jim Abbott
So you mess up one presidential election and four years later a bunch of really cool rock stars do concerts in your state.

On Friday, the Vote for Change tour hit Florida -- or, as Bruce Springsteen called it in his show at TD Waterhouse Centre: "The scene of the crime.''

Springsteen and the E Street Band were joined by R.E.M., Tracy Chapman and John Fogerty for a stellar performance for a packed house ready to hear a partisan message about putting a new administration in the White House in November.

Judging by the "Bruuuuccee!'' chants before the show, Springsteen was the main attraction. When he and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe emerged to introduce the show, the Boss told the crowd that he wouldn't stand for such attention.

"Tonight, this is a 'No Bruuuucccing' zone,'' he cautioned. "We have too many good musicians on the stage.'' Then, he offered the night's mission statement: to fight for a government "that is open, rational, progressive, responsive to its citizens and humane.

"And we will rock the house while doing so!''

The Orlando show, one of five Vote for Change shows in Florida on Friday, was the closing night of an 11-state, 33-city trek through swing states sponsored by the political action group America Coming Together. There was the potential for windbag monologues, but Friday night there was more rock than rhetoric.

Accompanied by a drummer and a second guitarist, Chapman opened with an expressive 30 minutes that showcased her deep, distinctive alto and eloquent songwriting.

Along with favorites such as "Fast Car'' and "Give Me One Reason,'' she also included a lovely rendition of the 1960s Civil Rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come.''

Chapman was followed by R.E.M., which blasted through an hour that mixed songs from the new Around the Sun with a cross-section of older material. Dressed in a white suit, the diminutive Stipe accompanied his singing with an array of spastic dances on "The One I Love,'' "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?'' and "Begin the Begin.''

Though the Around the Sun songs were pretty, the subdued mood of the album's title track seemed to leave the crowd restless. The protest ballad "Final Straw'' was delivered with more urgency, but the crowd withheld its most passionate responses for hits such as "Losing My Religion.''

Springsteen traded vocals and guitar licks on a pair of songs to close R.E.M.'s set, adding a muscular edge to the melodic "Man on the Moon'' with a searing guitar solo.

When Springsteen finally took the stage with his own band, he delivered a two-hour performance that affirmed his reputation as a peerless concert act. He started alone, strumming "The Star Spangled Banner'' fiercely on 12-string guitar as a prelude to an album-worthy "Born in the U.S.A.''

That song lit the fuse on a fiery tear through "Badlands,'' "Prove It All Night'' and "No Surrender.'' With the initial burst out of the way, Springsteen settled into a well-paced show marked by sonic peaks and valleys instead of the nonstop sprints he once delivered.

There were moments of reinvention, such as the rocking full-band treatment of Nebraska's "Johnny 99'' flavored by Danny Federici's accordion and Soozie Tyrell's fiddle. There was the anthemic power of "The Rising,'' which foreshadowed the uplifting finale.

There was a pleasant duet with Chapman on "My Hometown,'' a soaring cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night'' with Stipe and a show-stopping four-song segment with Fogerty. The latter sounded ageless as he ripped into "Fortunate Son'' and traded verses with the Boss on "Promised Land.''

Springsteen confined his political preaching to the tent-revival monologue in "Mary's Place,'' when he "healed'' a nonbeliever "from the burdens of Republicanism.''

Later, he was more serious:

"America is not always right,'' Springsteen told the crowd. "That's a fairy tale that you tell your children. But America is always true, and it's in seeking those truths that we find a deeper patriotism.''

When all the musicians took the stage for the rousing finale, "People Have the Power,'' it was obvious that the feelings were true -- even if some might not think they were right.



2004-10-08 TD Waterhouse Centre, Orlando, FL