Bruce Springsteen rocked concertgoers while trying to rock the vote Friday night in Philadelphia, leading a band of top musicians in a rollicking show to help elect Democrat John Kerry to the White Ho

Bruce Springsteen rocked concertgoers while trying to rock the vote Friday night in Philadelphia, leading a band of top musicians in a rollicking show to help elect Democrat John Kerry to the White House. Headlining the first in a month-long set of Vote for Change concerts, the Boss told a sold-out arena: "We're here to fight for a government that is open, rational, forward-looking and humane.

"And," he added, "we're going to rock the joint while doing so."

The concerts mark the first time Springsteen delved into partisan politics, despite decades of writing about working class heroes, American dreams and social injustices. He and others involved in the tour, which will benefit America Coming Together and MoveOn PAC, call the Nov. 2 presidential election "the most important election of our lifetime."

Yet the Philadelphia show's stars, who included the band R.E.M and John Fogerty, former lead singer of classic rock staple Creedence Clearwater Revival, spent no time bashing Republican President Bush, briefly plugged Kerry as the candidate of choice and played a barrage of crowd-pleasing, sing-along anthems.

Springsteen performed such trademark hits as "Born in the U.S.A." as well as "No Surrender," which the Kerry campaign has adopted as a signature song played at the Massachusetts senator's appearances on the stump.

Springsteen joined R.E.M. for the band's hit "Man on the Moon" and lead singer Michael Stipe joined Springsteen for a rendition of "Because the Night." The entire cast, including Springsteen's E Street Band and opening act Bright Eyes, closed with a version of Patti Smith's "People Have the Power."

"America is a land of great promise," Springsteen told the crowd of thousands. "But it is time to move America to fulfillment of that promise."

The Vote for Change tour encompasses about 40 benefit concerts in other battleground states, including Ohio, Florida and Missouri. As Springsteen played Philadelphia, five other concerts starring such artists as Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band, the Dixie Chicks and Pearl Jam played in other cities across Pennsylvania, one of the nation's so-called battleground states seen as possibly swinging to either Bush or Kerry.

Outside the Philadelphia arena, concertgoers gathered around tailgate picnics while volunteers set up voter registration tables and handed out leaflets. Inside, while a few called out "Kerry for President," most fans shouted their traditional "Bruuuuuce" for the rock icon.

"I think music has always been political. I just don't know whether something like this has a big impact on the vote," said Richard Sim, a laid-off steelworker and Kerry supporter. "I think a lot of people just came out to see the artists," he said, gesturing to his two friends -- one an undecided voter and the other a Bush supporter.


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