I am absolutely exhausted from the Inauguration events of this past weekend, but I was thrilled that I was in DC to witness all of it happening. Still, it took a little effort to participate in everything. I think everyone kind of had to nudge themselves along at 5 o’clock in the morning, reminding themselves that Obama’s inauguration was worth hours of standing in freezing temperatures.
Inauguration festivities began on Sunday with the “We Are One” pre-Inauguration Concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Post reported that Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and James Taylor were performing. They were… as well as Stevie Wonder, U2, John Mellencamp, Pete Seger, Shakira, Usher, Sheryl Crow, John Legend, Patti LaBelle, John Bon Jovi, Josh Groban, Garth Brooks, Mary J. Blige, will.i.am, Herbie Hancock, and Renée Fleming. I named them all for dramatic effect. How could I not go to this thing? I left the house with my housemates around 7AM to walk to the Mall armed with 3 layers of pants, 5 layers of shirts and jackets, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a deck of cards. The concert started at 2PM and we arrived a little after 8AM.
The hours went by slowly, but the good company provided plenty of conversation and warm bodies to cuddle with. There was minimal pushing and medium levels of hostility in the crowd. Making your way to a port-a-potty was treacherous and nerve-racking, but once there, you’d have a friendly stranger to chat with. Good luck finding your way back though; after a certain point, leaving the group to pee meant certain abandonment.
The concert was not without flubs. The sound system echoed horribly once it actually began working. We couldn’t hear the opening blessing by Bishop Gene Robinson and chanted “Turn it up!” with thousands of frustrated onlookers. Bruce Springsteen opened the concert with an acoustic version of “The Rising” with a choir. Luckily, sound was restored shortly after he began, and we all settled down to sing along and listen.
On the whole, the concert was a major success. Performers sang relevant favorites: John Mellencamp sang “Pink Houses”; Mary J. Blige did “Lean on Me”; Stevie Wonder performed “Higher Ground; James Taylor performed “Shower the People”; U2 played “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Bizarrely, Garth Brooks was a favorite with his renditions of “American Pie” and “Twist and Shout”; we just needed to sing and dance the chills out, I guess.
If the list of performers isn’t overwhelming enough, let me list the celebrities who spoke briefly between sets: Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Ashley Judd, Forrest Whitacre, Steve Carrell, Jamie Foxx, Laura Linney, Martin Luther King III, Jack Black, Rosario Dawson, George Lopez, Tiger Woods, Queen Latifah, and Marissa Tomei. Whew. Not to mention, Joe Biden and Obama gave brief speeches too!
I was skeptical about cramming so many diverse performers into one concert. Shakira’s inclusion was slightly confusing, but otherwise, the diversity was an asset: patriotism wove through each and every performance.
Still, the concert was not without controversy. Opera singer Renée Fleming was not introduced, although the US Naval Academy’s Glee Club, who backed her, was. Similarly, singer Josh Groban was introduced while the the DC Men’s Gay Chorus who backed him was mysteriously left out. In another strike against the gays,
HBO edited out the Inauguration Committee told HBO that concert events started at 2:30, resulting in the exclusion of the opening prayer by gay Bishop Gene Robinson from New Hampshire from their tv broadcast. Perhaps it was more than a poor sound system that muted Robinson’s prayer from an audience of 750,000 at the Mall? Ok, probably not. I exaggerate. Still, that’s a double whammy against the gays in a highly orchestrated event; surely, the exclusion was not merely a misstep.
Alright. I’ll recap my thoughts on MLK festivities and Inauguration Day for another time. I’ve got to get to the homework that I’ve been neglecting.