Standing beneath an 80-foot wide inscription of the Gettysburg Address, rocker Bruce Springsteen told 2,300 Barack Obama supporters packed inside the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Military Museum Saturday that he backed the president because he had spent his own career chronicling the "distance between the American dream and American reality."
The legendary singer, 63, gave a free 45-minute concert to help President Barack Obama's campaign staffers enlist volunteers for the final push to Election Day. On each seat was an envelope with phone numbers for eight potential Obama voters who attendees were urged to call while they waited for the concert to begin. Many did so.
"Our vote is our individual hand in shaping the America we want our children to grow up in," Mr. Springsteen said.
He was introduced by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who noted that the singer often visits soup kitchens and food pantries when he plays here. "Bruce Springsteen has supported our community for 30 years," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
(Rainbow Kitchen's food pantry was the featured charity of Mr. Springsteen's Saturday night concert at Consol Energy Center.)
Mr. Springsteen, playing alone on an electric acoustic guitar, opened with "No Surrender." Other songs included "Promised Land," "Youngstown" and, in a duet with local artist Joe Grushecky, his friend and occasional collaborator, "We Take Care of Our Own."
Between songs, he talked politics. He criticized the Pennsylvania voter identification law for "efforts at voter suppression" that he described as blowback against the election of Mr. Obama.
He repeatedly stressed his concern that growing disparity between haves and have-nots is a threat to working Americans.
But he drew louder cheers for advocating abortion rights, saying that a Republican victory would be "a danger to Roe v. Wade and women's health issues around the world."
His final song was a sing-along on "Thunder Road."
"Let's give President Obama four more years in the White House," Mr. Springsteen shouted in farewell. "Vote! Vote! Vote! Get your friends out and vote!"
Tickets had been offered directly to Obama volunteers, and then to the general public.
Not all who accepted were Obama supporters. Dylan Tartino, 18, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, and her mother, Merrily, visiting from Upper Saddle River, N.J., couldn't resist a free Springsteen concert but expect to vote for Mitt Romney.
"This is the first time in my adult life that I've attended a political rally. It didn't make me change my vote, but it informed me. And I'm a Springsteen fan," Merrily Tartino said.
The vast majority were clearly fans of The Boss and the president. Cody Nyegaard, 26, a welder and loading dock worker from Bloomfield, said his last political rally had been for Republican candidate John McCain in 2008, "but I don't think that's the route I want to go anymore."
He was most moved by Greg Waples, a young Obama field director from Erie, who spoke of graduating from college loaded with debt, unable to find a job in his field and working in a manufacturing industry that Mr. Obama had worked to save.
"We're not out there looking for some government hand-out or a free ride. All we want is a fair shot," Mr. Waples said, as quoted by Mr. Nyegaard. "He solidified who I want to vote for."
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416. First Published October 28, 2012 4:00 AM