Big names like Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, the Foo Fighters and Katy Perry were just a few of the famous artists singing songs dedicated to Americans during the inaugural special for President Joe Biden.
The theme of the concert was not celebration but unity, with tributes paid to the frontline workers who have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This day is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal,” said Tom Hanks, who hosted the show.
Bruce Springsteen kicked off the event with his song Land Of Hope and Dreams.
Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, the lyrics of the song, first performed in 1999, reflected the aspirations of the new administration.
Jon Bon Jovi, who campaigned for Biden, followed with a touching, faithful rendition of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” alongside his bandmates while on a pier in Miami.
John Legend powered through a big band arrangement of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, while Demi Lovato sang an upbeat cover of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day, accompanied by doctors and nurses in their hospital scrubs.
Foo Fighters dedicated Times Like These to the teachers who have “faced unprecedented challenges” with “dedication and creativity”, while cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a simple but moving version of Amazing Grace for those who have “found new ways for us to smile together” during the pandemic.
The star-studded event also featured appearances by actresses Eve Longoria and Kerry Washington, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef José Andrés, labor leader Dolores Huerta, and Major League Baseball’s first female general manager Kim Ng. Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the classic work by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, “The Cure of Troy”; Biden recited the lines alongside him at the end.
The night also included remarks from President Biden, who reiterated a call for unity and respect and spoke of optimism for the future — an outlook the event encapsulated. Vice President Harris also spoke during the event, addressing American aspiration and determination: “Even in dark times, we not only dream, we do,” she said. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton also teamed up for a conversation, further highlighting the call for unity.