The Obama Concert at the Lincoln Memorial January 18, 2009 Part One

So I went down to the pre-inauguration festivities at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday ( January 18, 2009) as I wanted to be a part of history ( and it goes without this writing that to witness such events sometimes you have to travel into them).

Luckily, at onetime I resided in the District of Columbia and with that foreknowledge I made a strategic decision to drive in.  This personal vehicle of deployment was oppurtune for by arriving early enough there was parking on the  street which runs besides the mall right by the National Gallery of Art’s famous I.M Pei designed east wing .  Also just upon Our arrival (again with my freind Neil Stevenson) the rehearsal run through for the inaugural swearing in was taking place at the South end of the capitol.

Change has Finally Come

Then after walking over to watch the run through and listen intently to a tape of John Williams’ composistion “Air and Simple Gifts”  ( written just for the occassion and performed later at the actual event by Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma , Anthony McGill, and Gabriel Montero) and then stops at the National Arboretum and the Museum of the American Indian.

At the American Indian Museum we had a lunch of beat salad , some type of Native American sweet potato pie,  green chilli soup, and Washington state wild salmon.  Then it was down to the concert  for the next course which was musical and the wait of course was worth it.  Meanwhile throughout the day the people watching was excellent cowboys mozying in ten gallon hats and tight fitting levis, yokels from the provinces saying by the medicinal plants in the botanic gardens “as you said it is better to kill it than to cure it”  ,  and soldiers with anti-aircraft missles ready at the base of the Washington monument (itself upon a summit).

Security

Biden and Obama appeared monarchy style ( though with families in tow) as a military trumpet corps played  Richard Strauss’s “Also  Spach Zarathutra”  better known as the theme from “2001 A Space Oddessey”.(and itself a musical adaptation of Fredric Nietzche’s  “Thus Spoke  Zarathutra”.  A stiff looking Bruce Springsteen was the first musical guest  singing “The Rising” with a gospel choir who did not seem to have had the time or he either with them to get into a smooth unison( though the Boss did finally seem to get his groove on by the time he got to the line about a catfish on his line and was right in tune withPete Seeger on the great sing-along  alternative national anthem “”This Land is Your Land” later on).

There was an endless stream-team of Hollywood actors up to talk and introduce the performers  and from this observor’s point of view the solo speakers were the best including Denzel Washington Jr. (with his beautiful voice) and Jamie Foxx who did a dead-on Obama imitation redux).    Tom Hanks meanwhile looked like he was reading script for the HBO television event this was while making no attempt to play it off for the crowd presently before him.  Though the Forrest Gump portrayer’s reading from Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address” (which is chiseled into the memorial itself was as ever moving).

Close behind one performer I had never seen  Mary J. Blige ( in a pink suit which who looked well radiant against the classic marble of the monument )was another performer I had never seen lite rock giant James Taylor ( I’ve seen fire  and I’ve seen rain but I had never seen him) who was joined by Sheryl Crow and John Legend for ‘Shower the people you love with love. And for this number Taylor went electric with a green and white guitar strumming merrily to the embracing tune.

Not that long after the next performer was a John Cougar Mellancamp who finally set the crowd to rocking.  The hoosier whose name might read as a camp for large fruits who want to learn how to “hurt so good” of course sang little pink house and  seem to  nod to the lyrics which got him to give this song upon that day the nod “Well theres a young man in a t-shirt
Listening to a rockin rollin station
Hes got a greasy hair, greasy smile
He says: lord, this must be my destination
cuz they told me, when I was younger
Boy, youre gonna be president
But just like everyting else, those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went”…..

Up soon after was a blue bedecked Garth Brooks who as if part of a tabelaux was dressed to blaze into a flag pattern along with the choir dressed in red.  The singer was determined to kep the vast crowd rocking and opened with an abridged version of “American Pie” the Don Maclean  classic (which Neil said he “massacared” so it really was “bye bye Miss American pie”) followed bv his version of “Twist and Shout” (it felt like somebody really rich had rented out the Memorial for the worlds’ largest Bar Miztvah and Garth was the band).  But he is an enternainer and he entertained.

Soon after it was Stevie Wonder (yeah!) who was joined by Usher and Shakira for a rousing version of “Higher Ground” this alone was worth the trip) .  Then Samuel l. Jackson walked to the stage and introduced an Irish group who wrote song about Martin Luther King jr. and of course it was U2 and they broke out into “Pride/In the Nmae of Love” and the vast sea of people overflowing erupted.  Bono made his usual battle cry speeches and then he thanked the then still President-elect  Barack Obama for making the next song one of the campaign themes and on came “in the City of Blinding Lights” and its’ refrain “Oh you look so beautiful tonight”

The Scene at the Lincoln Memorial During U2's "The City of Blinding Lights"

and the closing salvo from Bono “Thank you America”.   Biden spoke at some point (its hard to remember) about the pirde and dignity of the American worker and later Obama about the his commitment to going forth with what he came to Washington to doas in ” the  theme of the day”We are one”).

Then Springsteen appeared again for what appeared to be the closer and introduced “the father of American folk “Pete Seeger and then went into “This Land is your Land” as we began to make our way back to the car and then “America the Beautiful’ wailed and I was no longer in sight of the stage or the video screens but heard it (later this itinerant blogger found out it was Beyonce making it the second time I had heard Beyonce without actually seeing her the other at the Venetian hotel/casino in Macau.).  Finally if there were a couple of performances he did  not describe this blogger was testing the medium and going after the highlights.

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