for ''London Calling''

By David Browne
Updated December 26, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven, Dave Grohl & Elvis Costello give one of the year’s Great Performances

It was the right remake at the right time. As war in Iraq loomed, the music industry held the 45th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 23. After hours of backslapping, God thanking, and lip-synching, the show ended with a sight unimaginable a decade before: an old punk (Elvis Costello) and a seasoned grunger (Dave Grohl) sharing the stage with their seeming opposites, Jersey Shore vets Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven. Ostensibly, the group’s rough-diamond rendition of the Clash’s ”London Calling” was a tribute to Joe Strummer, who had died two months before. But the song’s references to a ”nuclear error” and ”zombies of death” had a chilling modern context, and the finale — a blast of feedback that resonated throughout Madison Square Garden — was perfect. For Springsteen, the performance kicked off a new period of political commentary that grew more explicit in the months ahead, culminating in his semiplayful calls to ”impeach the President” during his E Street Band tour. Rumors that he is being audited back to 1975 remain unconfirmed.