Sunday, November 2, 2008
Springsteen opens for Obama
I think any smart politician would want Bruce Springsteen vouching for him at campaign events. The singer's six-song set and speech at Barack Obama's rally in downtown Cleveland today were plain-spoken and stirring.
Springsteen, appearing solo with an acoustic guitar, started his set with "The Promised Land," a 1978 song about resolve in the face of adversity. Next came "Youngstown," a stark ballad that mentions Northeast Ohio in the first line, followed by "Thunder Road," the classic first track from the Born to Run album. He sang the last line, "We're pulling out of here to win," to huge cheers.
With his wife, Patti, Springsteen sang a song he hasn't released on an album yet, dedicating it to Obama. "I'm working on a dream/Though it can feel so far away," went the chorus. He got the crowd singing on "This Land Is Your Land," and even sang one of Woody Guthrie's less-known verses, set "in the squares of the cities" and in a "relief office" -- noting the moment and evoking the Great Depression.
"For 35 years, I've been writing about what it means to be an American," Springsteen told the crowd. He said he believed in "economic and social justice, America as a positive example in the world, truth, transparency, and integrity in government," and a right to a job and a living wage. "Today those freedoms have been damaged and curtailed by a reckless and morally bankrupt administration." His songs, he said, have often measured the distance between the American Dream and reality. "I believe Senator Obama has taken measure of that distance in his own life and in his work." He finished his set with "The Rising," a poetic redemption song, the title track of the album he wrote in response to the 9/11 attacks.
A friend listening elsewhere in the crowd, inspired, texted me to read the words engraved on Public Hall behind Springsteen. He asked me to quote them on the blog, thinking them appropriate for the occasion. They read: "A monument conceived as a tribute to the ideals of Cleveland and builded by her citizens and dedicated to social progress, industrial achievement, and civic interest. Patriotism, progress, culture."
Update: Lots of video of Springsteen's performance on YouTube today, of varying quality. Here he is peforming "This Land Is Your Land" and "Thunder Road." Go to youtube.com and search for Obama, Springsteen, Cleveland for more.