Sunday, October 3, 2004

No swing, just rock 'n' roll at pro-Democrat concert

Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt draw crowds to Taft

By Liz Oakes
Enquirer staff writer

DOWNTOWN - For Democrats, Saturday was a night to rock, and maybe even roll out the vote.

About 2,400 people from across the region came to town to hear pop artists Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Keb' Mo' at a pro-Democrat concert at the Taft Theatre.

"I think we're talking about a vote for change," said Keb' Mo', guitar around his neck after opening the night's set. "But I think we're also talking about a shift - a shift in consciousness."

The comment drew applause from the audience, many sporting Kerry/Edwards shirts, stickers or buttons.

The concert, promoted by liberal advocacy group MoveOn PAC, was one of 37 such shows spread over two weeks in 11 presidential election "swing" states.

Several in the crowd milling outside the theater before the performance said they were there partly to make a statement.

"We heard part of the funds go to make a change, and we want to support the effort," said Steve Kroeger, 51, of Winton Place.

"And we love Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne," added his wife, Stephanie Amsbary, 49.

The Taft show drew fans from as far away as Louisville.

Perry Swinton-Ginsberg, 16, wearing a blue Kerry-Edwards T-shirt as she stood in the ticket line, said she and her mother, Jeri Swinton, 50, had driven two hours to attend.

"We get to support Kerry, and hear music my mom really likes," Perry said.

Republicans were welcome to attend too, said Sarah Leonard, spokeswoman for America Coming Together, a Washington, D.C.-based group working to register and turn out Democrats for next month's election.

"We'll take their money and use it to beat George Bush," she said.

Proceeds from the concerts benefit America Coming Together. Leonard said the organization isn't releasing how much it expects to raise during the Vote for Change Tour, but that it's likely to be "millions" of dollars.

The tour, which kicked off last week in Seattle, stars some of pop music's top names: Pearl Jam, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The artists decided who would perform where.

Saturday was Ohio's day. Pearl Jam played Toledo; Dave Matthews was in Dayton; John Mellencamp and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds hit the stage in Columbus.

Cleveland had Dixie Chicks and James Taylor performing at State Theatre, while Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, along with R.E.M., Bright Eyes and John Fogerty, played Gund Arena.

The 15-day tour is expected to reach an estimated 280,000 people in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota and Florida.

It wraps up with a four-hour show bringing the touring musicians together on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C., to be televised live on the Sundance Channel.

"We're not (expecting) to convince hundreds of thousands of voters to switch their allegiances, but we certainly hope we can change a few minds," Leonard said.

Some Republicans say they aren't all that worried.

"This is just more of ... liberal Hollywood entertainers supporting Democratic candidates," said Alex Triantafilou, vice chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Hamilton County.

Even if some Republicans go to the concert, he doubts they will be swayed.

"There will be people who like the music, but not the politics, and they can separate the two," Triantafilou said.


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