Monday, January 19, 2009

The Rap Up

Backstage footage of Obama greeting the musical guests. Thanks to the wonderful John Legend!!!

The inaugural concert telecast Sunday on HBO from the Lincoln Memorial had a sense of history and seriousness of purpose — sprinkled with a little frat party.

The latter came when Garth Brooks, backed by a youthful chorus, sang the rock staple "Shout." Thousands of spectators raised their hands in the time-honored dance.

What was "Shout" doing there? What, for that matter, was Garth Brooks? The crowd didn't seem to care, perhaps grateful for a little goofiness and a chance to move in the chilly weather.

HBO paid a production company $2.5 million for the rights to show the event, which it made available for free to all cable and satellite customers. It was a near-flawless production with multiple camera angles and a majestic backdrop in the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Through the cast, song selections and readings, the "We Are One" theme was driven home almost to the point of cliche. But it may have felt most real in what seemed like an offhand comment by comic George Lopez.

"I've got one question," he said. "Anyone here from out of town? Well, you're at home now."

Actors from Steve Carell to Forrest Whitaker gave readings that served to tie President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration to American history. Remarks by presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were used. The speakers recalled Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at the same Lincoln Memorial, and Marian Anderson singing there after being barred from Constitution Hall.

The best were Denzel Washington, given the job of first outlining the themes, and Tom Hanks. Hanks quoted from Lincoln's speeches as a band played Aaron Copeland's "A Lincoln Portrait."

The musicians did the real inspiring. Bruce Springsteen, backed by dozens of chorale singers, performed "The Rising," the title cut of his album that helped the healing process after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Stevie Wonder joined Usher and Shakira for a hip-shakin' version of Wonder's "Higher Ground." Another strong collaboration was Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow and doing Bob Marley's "One Love," with doing an impromptu rap on racial harmony. James Taylor, John Legend and Jennifer Nettles did a reassuring "Shower the People," although our favorite of that song may have been Taylor's unbilled male backing singer.

And is there any doubt that Beyonce is now the queen of all she surveys? Not only did she get a finale singing "America the Beautiful" on Sunday, she will serenade Obama and his wife Michelle at their first inaugural ball on Tuesday night.

Mary J. Blige did an energetic "Lean on Me" that got the Obamas smiling, although her voice didn't quite have their range for it. Having Josh Groban sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" coming out of a clip of Anderson's Lincoln Memorial version was unfair to both of them. U2 didn't soar quite like you'd expect and Bono did a little too much politicking, trying to draw the Gaza conflict into the day.

At least he knew how to use a microphone. Couldn't someone have told Joe Biden that he didn't have to shout as if he didn't have one?

Kids being kids, Sasha and Malia Obama were polite but didn't have the enthusiasm they will no doubt show when the Jonas Brothers perform for them Monday. Producers were also cursed by a little girl who sat behind the president-elect and several times could be seen in a sound sleep when the camera cut to him.

Her snooze was no reflection on a show that set a strong standard for three days of inaugural events on TV.


'McCain barbecue just as fun as Inaugural Concert'

Celebrations While the Inaugural concert in D.C. drew names like Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor with John Legend and Jennifer Nettle, John Mellencamp, Josh Groban and Heather Headley, with Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder with Usher and Shakira, U2, Pete Seeger, and Beyonce, another celebration in Phoenix, Arizona for Sen. John McCain turned up the big name of Ricky Skaggs.

“We’re having a such a nice barbecue for Senator McCain, and I’m playing my country music for him to thank him for running such a fine campaign,” says Skaggs. “I am having a great time entertaining John. This is just as fun as the festivities in Washington, D.C.”

According to a spokesperson, McCain was not present at his own barbecue as he was attending the exciting Inaugural concert in D.C.

“I am a huge fan of Beyonce,” McCain told Dateline Hollywood.

Beyonce Closes 'We Are One' Inaugural Concert With Unifying Performance

Previous performers and the Obamas themselves join B in singing 'America the Beautiful.'

Beyoncé brought down the house Sunday afternoon (January 18) as she closed out the "We Are One" inauguration celebration with a soaring version of "America the Beautiful."


The singer, who donned a brown winter coat and leather gloves, was backed by a massive choir, with members alternately wearing red and blue jackets to symbolize the unity between political parties during this historic moment.

The gesture wasn't lost on anyone.

The concert's previous performers reappeared onstage with Beyoncé in an awe-inspiring sign of inclusion. Rocker Bruce Springsteen and rapper Will.I.Am joined Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks and others. Stevie Wonder also took part in the festivities, playing harmonica during the song's bridge.

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, incoming first lady Michelle Obama, were seated just before the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As Beyoncé belted out the patriotic number from the stairs of the iconic monument, the Obamas also sang along. Seated nearby were Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, who joined in as well.

Comedian George Lopez and U2's Bono were also spotted onstage during the commencing performance.

"We are one," Beyoncé shouted as she wrapped the song.

Other notable appearances during the afternoon included actors Jack Black, Steve Carell and Jamie Foxx. Garth Brooks, Usher and Mary J. Blige also performed. Denzel Washington opened the celebration with a speech.

Obama Family, Celebs Rock the Lincoln Memorial


Getty Images

Hollywood packed up and went east to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama -- and the festivities kicked-off with an all-star concert last night!

Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha enjoyed performances by Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Shakira, Beyoncé, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Corw, Josh Groban, U2 and others.

When Wonder took the stage to perform "Higher Ground," the President-elect did a little dance with his family. U2 frontman Bono dedicated "Pride" to the late Martin Luther King Jr., who 46 years ago spoke from the same location at the Memorial to encourage action in the civil rights movement. After the dedication, Bono stated that King's dream was close to realization, saying, "On Tuesday, that dream comes to pass!"

The future Commander-in-Chief also spoke to the crowd, highlighting the unity needed throughout the country, especially in this time of war and economic uncertainty. "There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep," said Obama. "But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard."

Tom Hanks, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington and Jack Black took the stage throughout the evening to read historical passages. Beyoncé closed the ceremony with her rendition of "America the Beautiful," featuring all the performers of the night -- before telling the crowd, "America, we are one."


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