HBO gave a wonderful gift to the nation on January 18th with one of the first big celebratory concerts for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Under a slate grey sky, with Lincoln gazing on and the frozen waters of the Potomac River as a backdrop, some of the biggest film and music celebrities in the world gave tribute to America and a new President.
As Obama and his family watched and occasionally did a little enthusiastic seat dancing (probably to keep warm, it looked like it was about 22 degrees in DC yesterday) rockers such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and U2 kept the crowd of thousands enthralled. They also had the Naval choir, the Marine band and wonderful actors including Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks and Forest Whitaker reading stirring words from America's founding fathers. And if film and music celebrities were not your thing, they even had Tiger Woods on stage, relating a powerful memory about his father's devotion to the military.
Tribute must be given to HBO, which offered the special multiple times yesterday to all cable homes, whether they subscribed to HBO or not. If you don't have cable, you can still watch the entire patriotic special on the HBO website, it is streaming continuously.
Favorite moments for me included a very out of character, non-country
performance from Garth Brooks, who had the enormous crowd dancing and singing along to the old soul stomper, "Shout". When the camera cut to the President-Elect he was bopping in time to the music and singing along himself...I think he rather liked Mr. Brook's rendition!
Beyonce' brought the house down towards the end with a stunning version of "America the Beautiful". Her voice has improved so much over the past few years and it has never sounded better than it did yesterday, floating over the huge crowd clustered around the reflecting pool, with the Washington monument in the distance.
Bono and U2 played "In the Name of Love", their tribute to Martin Luther King, and joked about the incongruity of "four Irish lads" being present at such an historic American event. They also sang "City of Blinding Lights" and mentioned that Obama had adopted that song for his campaign, proving that either he or his handlers have impeccable taste.
Just before the end, the crowd went completely silent, as an animal expert brought a huge live American Bald Eagle on the stage. The magnificent bird flapped his wings and stared fiercely at the new President. I was crying like a baby at this point, animal lover that I am.
The two hour program wrapped up with about a billion pounds of stars on the stage, singing a joyful, spirited version of "This Land is Your Land". It was absolutely glorious. Go watch the whole show on the HBO website, or take a look at some highlights on this video below. No matter what your political persuasion, or where you are in the world...you'll feel pretty good about the USA after this program.