Rock Royalty to Join Voices Against Bush With Fall Concerts
Musicians will perform in swing states to try to affect election.
Playing for a cause is a tradition, but injecting political views can
By Geoff Boucher, Times Staff Writer
Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and a deep roster of
other rock stars will unite for politically minded concerts this fall
that will give voice to dissatisfaction with the Bush administration.
The all-star rock shows, which are expected to begin in October and
target campaign swing states, are in the planning stage but were
confirmed by half a dozen music industry sources who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
Insiders disagree on the unifying rhythm of the celebrity coalition.
Some say it is the promise of the John F. Kerry candidacy, but at
least one emphasizes the fear of President Bush's reelection. "There
is a range of feeling about Kerry," the source said, "but a uniform
belief that Bush must go."
The tour turns up the volume of the rock scene's role in politics, but
it is not the only example of an apparent surge of commentary among
artists. Rockers seem virtually unanimous in their anti-Bush stance,
just as country music has seen a wave of passionate patriotism and
support for the president, exemplified by the songs of Toby Keith.
MTV has been showing a video by the British dance-pop outfit Faithless
that features a teen shipped off to Iraq only to return home wounded
and disillusioned. Representing a different generation, Tom Waits and
John Fogerty have recorded songs about Iraq. For Waits, it's the first
political song of his four-decade career; for Fogerty, it's a return
to his Vietnam-era songs such as "Who'll Stop the Rain."
Elsewhere, rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is steering a new voter
registration drive, and the usually bratty punk-pop band Green Day has
said its next album will be a political concept piece. Steve Earle has
a new album laced with songs about Iraq and Bush and even a mocking
valentine to national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. Blues player
Keb Mo has an upcoming album of peace songs, including John Lennon's
"Imagine" and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."
Introducing political commentary into music is sometimes a risky
prospect — even if it's just a passing reference.
Last weekend, Linda Ronstadt was booed in Las Vegas for praising a
Bush nemesis, filmmaker Michael Moore, while Ozzy Osbourne relented to
critics and removed concert imagery that showed Bush and Hitler
together on an overhead screen.
The countercultural mind-set and recklessness once at the core of rock
music now seem relegated to the distant past, Elton John told
Interview magazine. He said that protest had often given way to strict
careerism in this corporate age.
"There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now, and that is
deadly," John said. "Everyone is too career-conscious. They're all too
scared…. Things have changed."
Tom Morello, guitarist with Rage Against the Machine and once a
staffer to the late California Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston, is a
veteran of politics-meets-rock. "I'm not surprised you're seeing this
music being made, and I'm not surprised it's connecting with an
audience," he said. "It's not just people who write songs —
carpenters, teachers, everyone is ready for a regime change."
Morello was cited by some sources as a probable participant in the
concert series, but he declined to confirm plans for the shows.
No album or song is likely to capture as much media attention as the
concerts involving Springsteen in swing states, which are expected to
take place in arenas.
Organizers have been tight-lipped since discussions of the idea caught
the ears of some of the stars in April. At the end of last week, the
formal announcement was scheduled for Aug. 4 in New York.
Other artists expected to join the lineup include Earle, the Dave
Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks, Bright Eyes, Ani DiFranco, Death Cab
for Cutie and International Noise Conspiracy. There also are reports
that Bob Dylan and James Taylor may be part of the bill.
The shows reportedly will benefit several organizations, chief among
them MoveOn.org, the advocacy group that champions a liberal agenda
through Web-based grass-roots efforts.
All-star concerts to raise money for philanthropic or political causes
have become a tradition. The template goes back to 1971 with George
Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh and the no-nukes shows of 1980 that
featured Springsteen and such artists as Taylor, Jackson Browne and
Organizers have tried to keep the fall shows under wraps to spotlight
the official announcement. Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, declined
to discuss the shows, and Young's manager, Elliot Roberts, did not
return calls. When Bertis Downs, who manages R.E.M., was asked about
the band's fundraising plans, he replied, "I can't talk about that."
R.E.M became one of the first bands to criticize the war in Iraq when
it posted a song on its website in March 2003, the month of the
Others now joining the critical chorus include the Beastie Boys, a
Perfect Circle and Jay Farrar, the alternative-country rocker who said
Saturday that he resisted political messages in the past because the
topic didn't fit his sensibilities.
But now, he said, he would feel derelict if he didn't speak up. "And
there will be a lot more artists doing the same thing if Bush gets
Sweet. This tour is supposed to hit the swing states, which includes mine (Iowa).
I'd have a ******* joygasm if PJ, DMB, and Neil Young played a show anywhere in the state. Hee hee.