Bruce Springsteen kicked off Joe Biden’s inauguration concert, as the first performer in the “Celebrating America” special hosted by Tom Hanks.
Accompanied only by a guitar on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — with the lit National Mall and Washington Monument beckoning in front of him — Springsteen, 71, offered a “small prayer” for the country before serenading with his 1999 song “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
Hanks — who along with his wife, Rita Wilson, fought the coronavirus earlier last year — talked of witnessing “deep division” and “rancor” across the country in recent years.
“Tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of the constitution,” as well as the “dreams we share,” Hanks, 64, said.
Following Springsteen and Hanks, New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi, 58, and his band performed The Beatles’ hopeful tune “Here Comes the Sun,” from Miami.
After a herald from US Army trumpets, President Joe Biden offered his own greeting from the base of Lincoln’s statue.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and, because of you, democracy has prevailed,” he said. He went on to list issues the nation faces — the coronavirus pandemic, economic crises, racial injustice and more — and made a call for “unity” in order to defeat obstacles.
“The question is: Are we up to it? Will we meet the moment like our forbearers have?” he said. “I believe we must and I believe we will.”
Biden’s speech was followed by Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake, who joined for a pre-recorded duet of soulful tune “Better Days,” featuring Kirk Franklin as well as Black Pumas who performed “Colors” from Austin, Texas.
Dave Grohl, 52, of Foo Fighters paid tribute to “unshakeable teachers” like his own mother, Virginia, who “face unprecedented challenges” but still manage to “enlighten our kids” before performing a slowed-down “Times Like These.”
Broadway stars Betty Buckley, Vanessa Williams, Anthony Rapp, Wayne Brady and more also joined for a rousing mashup of “Seasons of Love” (from “Rent”) and “Let the Sun Shine.”
Later, from Los Angeles, 28-year-old singer Demi Lovato — sporting her new short, pink pixie cut — served up an energetic take on “Lovely Day” with help from celebs and everyday Americans who beamed in as her background vocalists.
And for the finale, pop star Katy Perry — elegantly wrapped in white — blasted her 2010 hit “Firework” as pyrotechnics lit up the Washington Monument.