Chicago UCI Pavilion

He murmurs a final salute, "Vote Proud", and disappears into the wings.

When it comes to the art of oratory, Eddie Vedder hardly measures up to Jello Biafra, Michael Moore and writer Studs Terkel, all of whom deliver speeches tonight. But when it comes down to locating the righteous, bleeding heart of Ralph Nader’s campaign for the American presidency, for which tonight is a rally, Vedder proves more than up to the job.

Bearded, dressed-down, Vedder shuffles bashfully onstage, battered acoustic in hand, to lend a little musical support to Nader’s efforts in offering the American public a choice beyond the two evils of Bush and Gore. He opts for two cover versions of the folk standard ‘I Am A Patriot’ (the moral of which – that the essence of patriotism lies more in dissent than blind servility – hits hard tonight), and of Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’. He sings the former with a growing disgust, a just anger. The latter is more uplift than overthrow, Vedder musing over every syllable, perhaps hoping to revive the revolutionary ire slumbering in the over-familiar lyric.

It’s a performance so passionate, so seriously heartfelt, that you fear Vedder will tumble headfirst into the well of worthiness he teeters upon. But he doesn’t. In a rock scene swamped by disposable nihilism, Vedder has no equals who’d put their rock’n’roll cool on the line for an issue even of this importance. Tonight, he silences the cynics who’ve labelled him a fake in the past; no bluster, no chest-beating, just an unassuming, honest intensity. He murmurs a final salute, “Vote Proud”, and disappears into the wings.

Stevie Chick