Some shocked by Shocked

Performer's political comments left some concertgoers upset

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Michelle Shocked shocked some members of her audience Friday night when she spliced her concert with running political commentary.

Shocked was the featured performer during a Strings in the Mountains "Different Tempo" concert at Music Festival Park. Shocked discussed injustice and racism and made derogatory remarks about President Bush and his father, concert attendees said.

Several concertgoers apparently left before intermission.

"At least with Howard Stern-types I know what to expect, but music versus hateful propaganda is unacceptable," concertgoer Paul Fox, who was visiting Steamboat from Florida, wrote in an e-mail to Strings and to the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "Her complete lack of class and spiteful tirades made me sick."

After her harsh criticisms of Bush in the first half of Friday's concert, Shocked returned after intermission and discussed her status as a born-again Christian. She then led the audience in prayer.

In a statement issued through her publicist, Shocked said she did not intend to offend anyone.

"We live in such politically-charged times, and I'm a very open person," Shocked said. "Anyone who knows my work knows that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I speak my mind. I got it from my Texas Grannie who gave her two cents worth, whether you asked for it or not. I guess you could say that I'm opinionated."

Arlene Van Baak said she didn't agree with Shocked but wasn't upset by her comments.

"I was only bothered to the extent that I'm a Republican, but this is America, and free speech is important," Van Baak said. "She definitely knows what she believes in, which is more than I can say for some people. And she didn't use foul or offensive language like some performers."

Van Baak said she enjoyed the concert. "Her music was fantastic," Van Baak said.

Betse Grassby of Strings in the Mountains said Shocked's political commentary came as a surprise to concert organizers.

"Strings is about music," Grassby said. "We hired Michelle Shocked for her music and her song writing. We do not condone nor support political grandstanding from our stage."

Strings offered refunds to those who were offended by Friday's concert.

Grassby, who is responsible for final bookings for Strings, said Shocked played a free concert in Steamboat in 2002 that was largely successful and politically uneventful.

Shocked always has had a political activist streak. The cover of her first album -- Short, Sharp, Shocked -- featured a photo of Shocked being arrested at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

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