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Celebrating 46

Stars come out for packed Biden-Harris inauguration concert

Event hosted by Tom Hanks at Lincoln Memorial was mix of live, virtual performances from stars including Springsteen, Perry, Timberlake, Legend, Yo-Yo Ma as well as 3 ex-presidents

In this image from video, Katy Perry performs during the Celebrating America event on January 20, 2021, following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. (Biden Inaugural Committee via AP)
In this image from video, Katy Perry performs during the Celebrating America event on January 20, 2021, following the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. (Biden Inaugural Committee via AP)

Fireworks burst over the White House Wednesday for a star-studded night of socially distanced music celebrating incoming US President Joe Biden, a pandemic-era special that replaced the traditional bevy of balls.

A-listers made a valiant effort to keep up the energy at the mostly virtual, pre-produced show dubbed “Celebrating America.”

Among the few live artists was opener Bruce Springsteen, a man strumming his guitar in solitude, save for Abraham Lincoln in his neoclassical sanctuary.

Clad in jeans, a black peacoat and three discreet gold hoops in his ears, America’s dad played “Land of Hope and Dreams” to launch the special event hosted by actor Tom Hanks set at the Lincoln Memorial.

Biden and his family bopped before a TV screen in their new Washington home, as pop star Demi Lovato got an assist from healthcare workers nationwide to sing the late Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.”

R&B singer John Legend delivered a funky, soulful live rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.”

“It was so special for me to celebrate with the nation in front of the memorial,” tweeted Legend following his performance. “AND I loved honoring the late great Nina Simone, my constant source of musical inspiration.”

Katy Perry closed out the evening with her smash “Firework,” a light show bursting out behind the Washington Memorial as Biden and his wife Jill watched from the balcony.

‘New beginning’

Veteran and incoming presidents along with campaigning hopefuls have long sought to lean on star power and song to bolster their images.

Along with the celebrities, Biden also got a bump from his predecessors: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton delivered a video message to the incoming US leader and the country they each presided over.

“It’s a new beginning,” said Clinton. “Everybody needs to get off their high horse, and reach out to their friends and neighbors, and try to make it possible.”

Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis and Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honor of teachers.

The primetime special also featured performances from stars including Yo-Yo Ma and Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Ozuna brought back the megahit “Despacito.”

Fireworks light up the sky around the White House, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, as part of the festivities after US President Joe Biden was inaugurated (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A starry collection of Broadway’s most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sun Shine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Reéne Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Reciting excerpts of notable inaugural addresses from history were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial.

Tom Hanks speaks at a televised ceremony also attended by US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris at the Lincoln Memorial on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC (Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

“To some, a presidential inauguration is a tradition, an act that marks the commitment of a new four-year term,” Hanks said.

“Yet, in truth, inauguration day is nothing more than the swearing-in of the next national leaders, and this day is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal.”

Both Biden and Kamala Harris also made an appearance at the memorial, with the latter saying the moment “embodies our character as a nation.”

“It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times, we not only dream, we do,” the first female vice president said.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff attend a televised ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC (Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

“We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon, and then we plant our flag on it.”

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