HBO’S We Are One Inaugural Concert at Lincoln Memorial

01.17.09 9 years ago 6 Comments

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

11:15 a.m. PST

Fifteen minutes to kick off and I have inaugural remorse. My best friend just sent me a photo from her iPhone of the Lincoln Memorial and my accountant emailed me that he just met Garth Brooks. At least I’m warm. It’s another 80 degree day in California, but I so wish I were with my friends freezing in D.C.

11:29 a.m.

Finally figured out which HBO would be unscrambled (I don’t subscribe). Okay, the rating just came up at PG for the concert. Are they expecting  someone to cuss or something?

Beautiful opening spanning the mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial with the a color guard playing a piece– I’m pretty sure it’s Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” I’m trying to be true to the spirit of blogging and not look online for any help while I’m doing this. Nice opening to give the concert the gravitas it deserves as opposed to just “Hey Barack! Welcome to D.C. Want a beer?”

11:32 a.m.

They just introduced “The President-Elect of the United States and his wife: Barack and Michelle Obama.” The place goes crazy and I’m tearing up. It’s a new day. Thank God. Two more days and Bush is history. My heart is pounding

11:34 a.m.

Master Sgt. Caleb Green is singing the National Anthem. His microphone completely doesn’t work for the first line.  Then he bobbles the word “brave.” Still, gotta hand it to him. It looks like there are hundreds of thousands of people there.

11:36 a.m

Denzel Washington is giving an opening address. He seems very, very presidential, but couldn’t he have shaved for this? Sheesh… if you’re not going to shave and look nice for this, when will you?

11:39 a.m.

BRUCE!!!!!  He’s solo, alone with his acoustic guitar,  but is now backed by a choir in gorgeous red robes (and ear muffs) singing “The Rising.” Written after the terrible events of 9/11, in recent years it has taken the tone of a benediction and call to action in his concerts.  He sounds good, but he looks really, really cold and is very restrained for anyone who’s used to him running around  stage.

11:46 a.m.

Just showed Obama nodding along and the little kid, maybe 5 years old, sitting behind him is asleep, her head on her daddy’s shoulder. If she’s not going to use that seat, I want it! (Note- my sister tells me that the little girl is Obama’s niece)

11:47 a.m.

Laura Linney and now some man whom I don’t know  are playing  tribute to Roosevelt and now Kennedy with wonderful archival footage and Kennedy’s historic “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Your Country.”  Ah… this gentleman just said “Tomorrow my father’s legacy will be celebrated” Going out on a limb here and guessing he’s  MLK Jr.’s son.

11:49 a.m.

Mary J. Blige singing  “Lean On Me.” She’s dressed all in white and snakeskin boots, looks gorgeous and sounds fantastic.  I can’t see a band anywhere. I read a few days ago that it’s so cold, there was the possibility that they might have to tape the musicians because their fingers would freeze and they wouldn’t be able to play. Oh, just saw the teleprompter. Expected it for the actors reading past presidential and other notable speeches, but not necessarily the performers.

11:52 a.m

Oops– Jamie Foxx just had to bust the teleprompter operator to scroll back…. Nice– reading from past speeches and now brought in an Obama part from his Grant Park speech and is doing a pretty good imitation of Obama.  First bit of humor injected in the proceedings. This could play either way– disrespectful or fun– It seems like fun to me.

11:55 a.m.

They just chyroned Bettye Lavette. Maybe they knew most people wouldn’t recognize her or maybe it wasn’t working earlier or I just missed it, but they didn’t ID previous performers. But now Jon Bon Jovi has come out and they’re duetting on Sam Cooke’s  “A Change is Gonna Come.”  I knew someone HAD to sing this one. And she’s tearing it up and JBJ is definitely holding his own. There are a lot of JBJ haters out there, probably some reading this, but not me.  And don’t be surprised if we’re calling him Sen. Bon Jovi one day. Nice great tight shot of them singing together. Really lovely. Okay, I’m being such a fan girl. I know it.

12 p.m.

Just got a shot of the orchestra (looks like Marine Corps) playing, but still haven’t seen the band.  Tom Hanks is quoting Lincoln. Has there ever been a president before Obama that so closely aligned himself with a past president before even taking office? I’m not a presidential scholar. If someone knows, I’d love to know but Obama is clearly setting extraordinarily high standards for himself.

Hanks is reading a Lincoln speech about the end of slavery. What a time we live in. What would Lincoln say if he were here to witness this day that wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t abolished slavery. Sometimes–especially in light of the passing of Prop 8 here in California–it seems like we’re not making any progress at all here when it comes to respecting each other and treating each other with decent civil liberties. But it doesn’t feel that way today. God, if I’m this much of a mess today, what am I going to be like on Tuesday for the actual Inauguration?

12:06 p.m.

Marisa Tomei just quoted Reagan. I guess Obama is really trying to unite folks.

12:07 p.m.

James Taylor is singing one of my favorite songs, “Shower the People.” He looks cold and not very awake and doesn’t sound great, but he’s just been joined by John Legend and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and they’re bringing the energy level up.  The ending of this song when Taylor’s back up singer Arnold McCullers takes it into the stratosphere has always given me chills– there he goes.  Loving it.  Taylor is, sadly, a little extraneous on his own song here.

12:12 p.m

VP-Elect Joe Biden is speaking. Probably the last time he’ll get the attention of a big audience like this for the next four (possibly eight) years. He better enjoy it. Not much there.

12:14 p.m.

John Mellencamp on acoustic guitar singing “Little Pink Houses” with another guitarist on stage. Obvious choice, but at the same time the song is about how the American dream didn’t work out so great for everyone.  But I guess the “Ain’t That America/Home of the Free ” chorus tops any disillusionment that song actually conveys. Another choir and slides of every day folks, factory workers and such. Nice… I wonder if anyone is really going to get to rock out? Go Mellencamp. He’s using the front of the Lincoln Memorial like a big old stage. The first artist to cut loose. I’d like to put in a plug for JM here- if you’ve never seen him in concert, do yourself a favor and go. Gets the biggest cheer of any performer so far and is the first to really seem awake.

12:21 p.m.

Queen Latifah is taking about when Marian Anderson sang from the Lincoln Memorial, at the invitation of Eleanor Roosevelt, after the Daughters of the American Revolution banned her from singing at Constitution Hall since she was black.

12:22 p.m.

Straight from footage of Marion Anderson singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” to Josh Groban singing same song, backed by a male chorus and now Heather Headley has joined him. Nice and stately, but a little boring.

12:27 p.m.

Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crow and are performing  Bob Marley’s “One Love.” It’s a trainwreck. Don’t know what’s happening here, but Hancock’s keyboards don’t seem remotely related to anything else going on. It’s getting a little better. is now rapping about how we’re fighting terrorists overseas, but we still have terrorists living here in the U.S. . I dare anyone there to light up a joint. The Secret Service would be on them so fast.

12:33 p.m.

U.S. Navel Academy Glee Club with opera singer Renee Fleming performing “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” this is probably much more what good old Abe  is used to looking down at from his lofty perch rather than the likes of  Springsteen.  She sounds amazing, of course, but I’m blinded by the rock she has on her hand. Nice stills of military families. Man, they are striking every chord here.

12:39 p.m.

Garth Brooks, alone with a guitar, singing “American Pie.” Not alone for long. Look! It’s another choir! Looks like he’s doing a medley based on how Jack Black set up the segment.  He looks like he’s having a blast and Obama is singing along. Into “Shout”… Paging Otis Day & the Nights (I know it’s really by the Isley Bros.) Really cute play between Brooks and one of the girls in the choir on “Just a little bit softer now.” Into his “We Shall Be Free.” Man, he’s got to be cold– only in a jeans jacket–but he looks like he’s giving it everything he’s got…roaming the stage like Mellencamp did. Great! Perfect tone. My friend just called me from there, but I hear nothing but crowd noise, no singing, no nothing.

12:49 p.m.

Usher  singing “Higher Ground” Finally seeing some of the band. Out comes Shakira. Really, I just want to hear Steve Wonder sing it. He’s playing keyboards and will clearly come in soon but this is a case where you just need the original. Accept no substitutes.

12:57 p.m.

U2, “Pride in the Name of Love”–had to segue into this after Samuel L. Jackson’s immediately previous speech about MLK and the march on Washington.  First full band of the day on the steps of the Memorial.  Go Edge Go. Good version, not great, but does it even  matter? The message comes through loud and clear… loud and clear. Not the greatest performance, but the emotional high point so far for me. Bono’s preaching about how it’s not just an American Dream, but an Irish Dream, but an  Isreali Dream.. and also a Palestinean dream.” Don’t know how that’s going to play today. Maybe he should have left out that part just because it took the eyes off the day.

1:02 p.m.

U2 goes into “City of Blinding Lights,” which Obama used on the stump. Bono is completely playing to the cameras right now. That is one really cool guitar the Edge is playing and I know nothing about guitars. Digging Adam Clayton’s glittery gold bass too. U2 fans may know this song, but it’s the first song that the bulk of the audience is going “What?”

1:06 p.m

Okay, they just brought out a bald eagle. This is a bit much. If the eagle sings “Fly Like an Eagle,” I’ll be really impressed.  No such luck, just spread its wings. Not really sure what the point of that one was. Maybe they needed the time to change over something. Another bald eagle, this one named “Mr. Lincoln.”  Oh, here comes Obama. Not too tough an act to follow, these two eagles.

1:09 p.m.

“Hello, America.”  He’s basically giving a pep talk about how tough it’s going to be, but we will prevail. It’s hard not to believe him. I want to believe him. “You proved once more that people who love this country can change it…”  Yes….

Okay, who’s the poor SOB who has to follow that….

1:17 p.m.

Well, it would be Springsteen, Pete Seeger (and Seeger’s grandson) singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”  Same choir that Brooks used. My hunch is this is the closer. Seeger’s gotta be in his 80s, but God bless him, he doesn’t even have on a coat.  His grandson is definitely doing more singing than either Seeger or Bruce.

I think they just showed George Lucas in the audience-or someone who looks like him. Nice to start and end it with the Boss, if it is the end.

1:22 p.m.

Clearly that wasn’t the end as Beyonce is now out singing “America the Beautiful.” Okay, this is  the finale, since she’s been joined by all the other artists, choirs and color guards.   She sounds good, but I would have loved to have heard Mary J. Blige sing it.

Somewhat anticlimatic end as  the artists just stand there and there’s an announcement for people to stay seated while the President elect and his party exit.

Overall, a really great effort with such a mix and match of patriotism, history (good and bad) and trying to set a glowing tone without being overly jingoistic.

Best performers: Hands-downs Mellencamp and Brooks. And where was   Bishop Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal priest who was supposed to give the invocation?  Did that not make the broadcast?

I like how the next eight years look if this is any indication.

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