A tour with a message: Vote


October 12, 2004|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

The anti-Bush messages were more explicit out on the street, right before the Vote for Change concert kicked off last night at Washington's MCI Arena. One man hawked T-shirts that said, "Don't Get Bush-Whacked Again." Another held a sign that simply read, "Bush Must Go!" Inside, however, the 13 acts on stage mostly stuck to the greatest hits and never got too explicit about the political intentions behind the show.

Vote for Change wrapped up its 11-state, 33-city tour last night. It was sponsored by MoveOn PAC, the election-oriented sister organization of the anti-Bush MoveOn.org. The tour assembled more than 20 artists, some of the most respected names in the business: Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and others.

Heartland rocker John Mellencamp opened the long but reasonably paced show with two rowdy numbers before addressing the reason for his participation: "I'm here to support change, freedom and democracy for all of us," he said, "not just the rich of us." Then he launched into "Pink Houses," one of his best songs and appropriate for the night. The momentum sagged a little after Mellencamp introduced sappy singer-songwriter-producer Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, who seemed a little self-conscious as he sought his inner blues man. He whined his way through "Change the World," a song he produced for Eric Clapton in 1997. (The British singer-guitarist imbued it with much more warmth and soul.)

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Tuesday's Today section listed an incorrect title for a song played during Monday night's Vote for Change concert in Washington. The Buffalo Springfield song performed by Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo' and Jackson Browne is called "For What It's Worth." The Sun regrets the error.

Thank goodness it was the only song Babyface had for us. Raitt, Keb' Mo' and Jackson Browne were next, delivering twangy funk with Buffalo Springfield's "Everybody Look What's Going Down."

Jurassic 5 was the token hip-hop act, with a set so infectious, fun and accessible that middle-aged men bopped alongside the teens.

As the big hits from the big bands kept coming (R.E.M. delivered favorite after favorite: "Begin the Begin," "The One I Love"), you almost forgot the reason you were there.

The anti-administration messages were underplayed. And no one even mentioned John Kerry. But no one really had to. During his mini-set with the Dixie Chicks, Taylor put it simply, "Look at the candidates real close and choose the smart one."

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