. . . Tuesday July 27, 2004

Bruce Springsteen without the E Street Band

There’s something odd about going to a rock concert. You get in your car, drive to a venue, cheer like crazy when the band walks onto the stage and sing along with all the songs. It’s odd, but you can see why, especially when you’re loaded on a few drinks, it would somehow make sense.

At least when it comes to that form of hero worship, the people have to be able to play their instruments and sing in tune (the last decade of pop – when a really taut midriff would do – excepted).

The politician comes to the venue with no band and no back-up dancers. Suspended balloons his only prop. And most people in the crowd are dangerously sober (I know Wonkette will be ashamed of me for admitting I spent my first night at the convention hopped on nothing but Diet Coke).

And yet, there is little doubt that Bill Clinton is a rockstar. He’s even more of a rockstar than real rockstars are.

Up until Clinton’s speech, the sound was terrible in our section of the arena (otherwise known as the back wall minus three rows). But when Bill spoke, the sound was clear. The audience was riveted. They expected a revival meeting and they got it.

Lynard Skynard playing Free Bird. Barry Bonds when they are crazy enough to throw something near the plate. Gallagher smashing a watermelon with a giant hammer.

You think you’ve seen it so many times before that it will finally wear off. But then the pick touches the strings, the bat connects with the ball or some maniac with terrible hair and an untreated fruit fetish pulls out a super-sized mallet and you just can’t resist. You’re singing along.

I would really hate to hate Bill Clinton. The bottom line is that the guy gives ridiculously good speech. If Monday’s speech hadn’t included nearly every topic, I would’ve half expected an encore. (“Come on dude, play the one about growing up in a place called Hope.” … “What is is. What is is…”)

Among the better lines of the night were:

“Their opponents will tell you to be afraid of John Kerry and John Edwards, because they won’t stand up to the terrorists — don’t you believe it. Strength and wisdom are not conflicting values — they go hand in hand.”


“They think the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, economic, and social views, leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on matters like health care and retirement security. Since most Americans are not that far to the right, they have to portray us Democrats as unacceptable, lacking in strength and values. In other words, they need a divided America. But Americans long to be united.”

Interestingly, Clinton (more than most of the other speakers) did an excellent job of focusing much of his message on John Kerry. Here is the transcript of the speech for your enjoyment. To get the full effect, I suggest first suffering through a mediocre warm-up band and then holding a lighter in the air (Please use caution. I’m credentialed, but not insured).

Concentration is important!