Stars out in force at inauguration when Joe Biden takes reins of power

John Legend, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga (Lauren Hurley/Yiu Nok/Matt Crossick/AP)
John Legend, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga (Lauren Hurley/Yiu Nok/Matt Crossick/AP)

A-listers absent from President Donald Trump’s inauguration four years ago will be performing when President-elect Joe Biden takes the keys to the White House on January 20.

Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem as Mr Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in on the West Front of the US Capitol, with Jennifer Lopez giving a musical performance.

Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen will offer remote performances, and Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington will introduce segments of the event.

Later that day, Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time TV special celebrating Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Other performers include Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.

Despite a raging pandemic that is forcing most inaugural events online, it was a sign that Hollywood was back and eager to embrace the new president-elect four years after many big names stayed away from the inauguration of Mr Trump, hugely unpopular in Hollywood.

Eric Dezenhall, a Washington crisis management consultant and former Reagan administration official, predicted reaction would fall “along tribal lines”.

“I think it all comes down to the reinforcement of pre-existing beliefs,” Mr Dezenhall said.

“If you’re a Biden supporter, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga perform.”

But, he added, “what rallied Trump supporters was the notion of an uber-elite that had nothing to do at all with them and that they couldn’t relate to”.

Presidential historian Tevi Troy quipped that the starry Gaga-J. Lo lineup was not A-list, but D-list — “for Democratic”.

“When Democrats win you get the more standard celebrities,” said the author of What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched And Obama Tweeted: 200 Years Of Popular Culture In The White House.

“With Republicans you tend to get country music stars and race-car drivers.”

Referring to Lady Gaga’s outspoken support for the Biden-Harris ticket, he said he was nostalgic for the days when celebrities were not so political.

President-elect Joe Biden listens as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks (Susan Walsh/AP)
President-elect Joe Biden listens as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks (Susan Walsh/AP)

“Call me a hopeless romantic, but I liked the old days when Bob Hope or Frank Sinatra would come to these events and they were not overtly political,” he said.

Still, he said, Mr Biden’s unity message will not be derailed.

“In the end, I don’t think having Lady Gaga or J Lo is all that divisive,” he said.

Attendance at the inauguration will be severely limited, due to both the pandemic and fears of continued violence, following last week’s storming of the Capitol.

Outside the official events, one of the more prominent galas each inauguration is The Creative Coalition’s quadrennial ball, a benefit for arts education.

Preparations take place for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration (Patrick Semansky/AP)
Preparations take place for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration (Patrick Semansky/AP)

This year, the ball is entirely virtual.

But it is star-studded nonetheless: The event, which will involve food being delivered simultaneously to people in multiple cities, will boast celebrity hosts including Jason Alexander, David Arquette, Matt Bomer, Christopher Jackson, Ted Danson, Lea DeLaria, Keegan Michael-Key, Chrissy Metz, Mandy Patinkin and many others.

Robin Bronk, chief executive of the non-partisan arts advocacy group, said she has been deluged with celebrities eager to participate in some way.

The event typically brings in anywhere from 500,000 to 2.5 million US dollars, and this year the arts community is struggling like never before.

Ms Bronk noted that planning has been a challenge, given not only the recent political upheaval in the country but also the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic.

Given all that, did a celebration make sense?

“I was thinking about this when we were trying to phrase the invitation,” Ms Bronk said.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee also announced that the invocation will be given by the Reverend Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia.

There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Reverend Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

On the same platform, Mr Biden sat in 2013 behind pop star Beyonce as she sang The Star-Spangled Banner at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

James Taylor sang America The Beautiful, and Kelly Clarkson sang My Country, ’Tis Of Thee.

President Donald Trump's term ends on January 20 (Niall Carson/PA)
President Donald Trump’s term ends on January 20 (Niall Carson/PA)

At Mr Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the anthem was performed by 16-year-old singer Jackie Evancho.

A number of top artists declined the opportunity to perform at the festivities, and one Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday, even said she had received death threats before she pulled out of her planned appearance.

There was indeed star power in 2017, but most of it was centred at the Women’s March on Washington, where attendees included Madonna, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Cher, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and many others.

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