September 26, 1988 12:00 PM

This wasn’t the first group of rockers to crash through the Iron Curtain as if it were so many flimsy split rails at Woodstock. But when Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Tracy Chapman and Peter Gabriel arrived in Budapest earlier this month, the resulting blast reverberated through the Eastern Bloc. Though the music had a message—the show at People’s Stadium was stop No. 3 on Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! world tour—it was rock and roll that conquered the crowd.

Call it gas-nost. With shows scheduled in 18 cities on five continents, the six-week tour, also starring Senegalese rocker Youssou N’Dour, was launched to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Gabriel, a longtime supporter of Amnesty International, said he hoped “the first language of the world,” rock and roll, would call attention to the declaration, especially in countries where human rights are often abused. Before the tour ends on Oct. 15 in Buenos Aires, more than a million people will have attended shows in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the U.S., where concerts are scheduled this week in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif.

Hours before taking the stage in Budapest, the stars tried to articulate their vision. Sting’s statement was succinct: “Any government that depends on guns, torture and jackboots is irrelevant on this planet.” Springsteen merely expressed his hope that the tour “will make the world a little less oppressive.”

There was certainly nothing oppressive about the 7½-hour Budapest concert, where a very cold night found 80,000 wildly enthusiastic fans, including Hungarian Communist Party Secretary Janos Berecz and visitors from Yugoslavia, the U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia and East and West Germany, cramming the bleachers. Springsteen fan Julia Zatyko, 17, of Budapest reflected the spirit of the crowd when she explained that the Boss’s appeal was nonideological. “He’s very masculine,” she observed. “A real man.”

The Boss closed the show. Asked earlier how he planned to squeeze his usual four-hour show into a one-hour set, Springsteen said with a grin, “I play the same songs, only faster.” Seventy minutes and 13 songs later, he was joined onstage by his co-stars for the closing theme, Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.”

During Bruce’s set, Gabriel’s girlfriend, Rosanna Arquette, sat swaying in the wings, but fans were more interested in the Boss’s relationship with backup singer Patti Scialfa. “I am very angry about his rendezvous with Patti,” said Use Seeler of Munich. Moments after the concert’s finale, as Springsteen clasped Patti’s hand for the dash to a waiting van, Seeler exercised her own human right to a cry from the heart. “Bruce,” she cried, “we love you!”

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