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Fall Arts Preview | OUT OF TOWN

Many political axes to grind

September 19, 2004|Geoff Boucher | Times Staff Writer

Political stripe is hard to shed, even at an arena concert, but even rock fans who plan to vote for President Bush might find it hard to turn a deaf ear to the series of October concerts that will bring Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and others together to champion the chief executive's ouster.

The slate of East Coast and Midwest shows will begin in Pennsylvania on Oct. 1 with Springsteen, R.E.M, John Fogerty and Bright Eyes in Philadelphia and 17 other acts fanning out in the battleground state and teaming for simultaneous shows.

By some estimates, the tour may gross more than $40 million for liberal groups, and the name cachet of the rock brigade has already grabbed much ink for their cause. What can fans expect? Bertis Downs, manager of R.E.M., said the occasion and the artists will likely create some passionate moments, be they collaborations, unexpected cover songs or political declarations.

"The rehearsals leading up to the show are when everyone will get together, and that's when something may come together," Downs said.

He said the shows will not be especially elaborate in their staging -- the flurry of six states in six days and the fundraising priorities will make it a "straight-ahead rock" setting.

"There is a historic nature to this, so you can expect something appropriate to that," Downs said.

An example from 25 years ago this month is when Springsteen casually announced that he was going to try out a new tune called "The River" at a No Nukes show at Madison Square Garden. "It's big as an event, so expect big moments," Downs said.

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