Bon Jovi rocks crowd in need of lift after Obama debate
A few days after the Romney debate, Obama supporters were fired up and ready to go again
JON BON Jovi is performing his classic Living on a Prayer to the Obama faithful at the Paramount Theater in Denver on the Saturday after Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's first debate.
"It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not." The acoustic stripped-down version had a poignancy far removed from the 1980s hair metal stomping version beloved of students and hen parties. The audience, a mixed bunch far older than your average concertgoer, sang along enthusiastically.
The concert had been billed as a thank you to volunteers, but after a dismal debate performance, where the president seemed not to care if he made it or not, his despondent supporters were desperately in need of something to lift their mood.
The fightback had begun on the day after the debate. It was a freezing cold Thursday as we rallied at Lakewood in North Denver. Huge lines of supporters queued for hours in the early morning, the line snaking back and forth, as we tried shuffling away from the bitter breeze blowing off the lake. The unexpected cold was the main talking point - the debate was still too raw. But after an upbeat speech by Obama, the repeated refrain was "he was wonderful, why couldn't he have been like that last night?"
By Saturday night the Paramount's bar was alive with opinion. The conspiracy theory: there was a credible threat, that's why he was so late arriving at the venue and so distracted. A family emergency: did you see Michelle's face at the start when they cut to her, I think the family had just got terrible news, you could see how upset he was. And the angry, taking Jon Stewart's lead from the Daily Show: He needs to wake the f*** up.
The concert opened with a short video on Michelle Obama, featuring her family and her work to combat childhood obesity. The man beside me jiggled excitedly, his ample body further overflowing his seat "she should be president!" His fervent devotion was matched throughout the theatre by supporters who stomped and cheered. The cult of Michelle is strong and news of her return to Colorado later in the week was greeted with great excitement.
The event was an odd mixture of celebrity and politics. Congressman Ed Perlmutter warmed up the crowd. Actress Kate Walsh of Grey's Anatomy fame, who had been visiting campaign offices all day, spoke about the women she met who were fighting for Obama. The wonderfully named Governor John Hickenlooper took up the theme, repeated in campaign messages all week. "He's had our back for four years, now we need to have his." And then Jon Bon Jovi brought the house down with a 40-minute set of his classic hits, and an encore with a new song just for the Denver audience.
Fired up and ready to go, we continued the weekend of action. I stood in the rain one evening along with almost 20 other volunteers. Most of us only managed to register one person each the whole night. In Colorado the average rate is 2.7 registrations for three hours. You need a lot of enthusiasm to keep going in those circumstances.
On the last day of registration, I hit the jackpot. Standing outside the King Soopers discount supermarket, I registered five voters in two hours. Shona, my fellow volunteer did equally well. She had been out registering people at the charity shop GoodWill - new citizens, people who were eager to vote.
More than anything, it was the people we met who encouraged us. One woman held my hand and loudly blessed me - I stood there, embarrassed. In the words of Bon Jovi: "We'll make it I swear, Whoa, living on a prayer".