10 Years Ago: Bruce Springsteen Speaks Out Against Iraq War
When Bruce Springsteen is on tour, whether solo or with the E Street Band, his concert setlists sometimes become a commentary on what is going on in the world.
After Johnny Cash died in the fall of 2003, the Boss opened his next two shows with an acoustic version of âWalk the Line.â When the Trayvon Martin case became headline news last year, Springsteen and the E Streeters played âAmerican Skin (41 Shots)â in the young manâs honor. And when the United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, Bruce had plenty to say with his choice of songs.
In the run-up to the war, Springsteen had been vocal about his stance against it. When introducing âBorn in the U.S.A.,â he would say that he had written that song about the Vietnam War and hoped he wouldnât have to write a similar song soon. He even revived his hit cover version of Edwin Starrâs âWar,â specifically for a March 2 show in Austin, Texas â then-President George W. Bushâs former hometown.
The day of the U.S. invasion of Iraq also happened to be the first date of Bruce and the E Street Bandâs Australian leg of ‘The Rising’ Tour. So, it was from the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, Australia that Springsteen made his political stance clear. He opened with a somber, acoustic rendition of âBorn in the U.S.A.,â instead of the anthemic full-band version heard elsewhere on the tour. He then launched straight into a full-band attack for âWar,â with its impassioned line: âWhat is it good for? Absolutely nothinâ.â Springsteen would continue to open his shows this way for the subsequent Australian dates.
Later on in the show, before playing âLand of Hope and Dreamsâ during the second encore, Bruce dedicated the song to âAmerican and Australian sons and daughtersâ¦ and innocent Iraqi civilians.â
The U.S./Iraq War would have a profound effect on Springsteenâs concerts and songs. In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Bruce campaigned against George W. Bush and played a major role in the Vote for Change tour. His next two albums would feature songs about characters dealing with the Iraq War and its consequences, including âDevils & Dust,â âLast to Dieâ and âGypsy Biker.â
Listen to Bruce Springsteen Perform ‘War’ on March 20, 2003