Live From The ‘We Are One’ Inaugural Concert

By Erica Anderson and Gil Kaufman


The “We Are One” Obama inaugural celebration — featuring Bruce Springsteen, U2, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Usher and many more — just wrapped up. We had reporters in the crowd for the whole thing — check out what they saw and heard!

Erica, 1:30 p.m.: The space around the reflecting pool is gradually filling up. Despite the chilling wind, spirits are high. People are doing the wave. The number of people gathered here seems to rival the iconic scenes of the Civil Rights March in August 1963.

The significance isn’t lost on the young attendees.

Will, a 21-year-old from Massachusetts, called it a historic day.

“It’s crazy to believe some of the people who took part in that march 45 years ago are here to witness this, [the inauguration of] our first black president.”

“This is monumentous,” Elliott, a college student in D.C., added.

There’s about an hour to go before the performances kick off, and people just keep rolling in.

Erica, 2:25 p.m.: The entire crowd is doing the wave to pass the time. Everyone seems to be buzzing for Beyoncé.

Gil, 2:28 p.m.: So much for best-laid plans! With the city on virtual lockdown, the 10-minute cab ride to the Lincoln Memorial turned into more than an hour as our driver fought against a sea of police vehicles and a rolling, miles-long amoeba of people streaming to the event.

Erica, 2:35 p.m.: The show is under way! The crowd roars, trumpets play, silence falls over everyone. It is pretty moving to be here with all these people.

President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden just took their seats for the national anthem.

Erica, 2:38 p.m.: Denzel Washington is giving an introductory speech, stressing the show’s theme — “We are one” — and reminding the crowd this is a government by the people, for the people and of the people.

Gil, 2:42 p.m.: Just walked up to see the wall of American flags behind Denzel Washington part for Bruce Springsteen and his red-robed gospel choir cue for “The Rising.” Standing 50 yards from this surreal scene is making even my fellow jaded writers stop taking notes and sway along.

Gil, 2:47 p.m.: The “sky of blessed night” line brings a round of “yeah!” nods. The photographer behind me singing along with the “la-la-la”s.

Gil, 2:49 p.m.: Laura Linney is teeing up FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” speech. And now Martin Luther King III is setting up a JFK soundbite. This event is moving at an MTV pace!

Mary J. Blige

Gil, 2:52 p.m.: Here’s Mary J. Blige doing a gorgeous version of Bill Withers’ 1970s hit, “Lean on Me.” The Obamas and Bidens smile and sway along.

Erica, 2:55 p.m.: Capitol police are loving the show. Not a bad assignment to see Bruce and Mary J.!

Erica, 2:56 p.m.: Crowd is digging “A Change Is Gonna Come,” written by Sam Cooke and sung as a duet by soul legend Bettye LaVette and, er, not-soul legend Jon Bon Jovi. So many cellphones are in the air, recording it all. Mega mobile movement!

Erica, 3:01 p.m.: Tom Hanks gives the crowd a history lesson about Abe Lincoln (reciting Aaron Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait”). Perfectly choreographed, with the soul-stirring horns behind him.

Gil, 3:02 p.m.: It’s so weird that there’s a flight path right over the Lincoln Memorial. A jet is flying by every couple of minutes.

Gil, 3:05 p.m.: Some guy just walked by holding up a placard of Ellen DeGeneres’ face, for no apparent reason!

Erica, 3:09 p.m.: I’m honor of James Taylor, I see clouds of smoke rising from the crowd. Wait … why are people walking away? James Taylor rules!

John Legend

Gil, 3:12 p.m.: John Legend singing a duet with James Taylor on “Shower the People.” Wow, it is a whole new world!

Gil, 3:13 p.m.: OK, Legend just let out a soul wail, now it makes a bit more sense.

Erica, 3:15 p.m.: Girl to friend: “Who is that speaking?”
Friend: “Joe Biden.”
Girl: “Who cares!! When does Mellencamp come on?”

Erica, 3:18 p.m.: Mellencamp once spoke to my History of Rock and Roll class in Indiana. Good to see him again — this time not smoking in a university classroom! Rock star. Crowd is belting out “Ain’t that America!”

Gil, 3:18 p.m.: Wow, VP-elect Joe Biden really projects! His voice was echoing all the way down the reflecting pool.

Erica, 3:20 p.m.: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington (D.C.) is onstage. Good for them!

Gil, 3:28 p.m.: Gotta love George Lopez. “Anyone here from out of town?”

Gil, 3:32 p.m.: OK, now I’ve seen everything. Sheryl Crow and Will.I.Am singing Bob Marley’s “One Love.” There is now officially no one Will hasn’t sung with. The president-elect digs it — they just showed him on the screen, grooving along.

Erica, 3:32 p.m.: Tiger Woods, too? That was out of the woodwork. The diehards are staying, but some people are taking off. It’s bitter cold …

Gil, 3:35 p.m.: “Fore!” People yell for Tiger Woods. Huh?

Gil, 3:40 p.m.: People are crying for that amazing note Reneé Fleming held at the end of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Erica, 3:40 p.m.: I’ve never seen so many bundled-up people dancing. “Bye bye, Miss American Pie” will do that.

Gil, 3:41 p.m.: Jack Black talking about President Roosevelt’s love of nature sounds like … Jack Black … And there’s Garth Brooks doing “American Pie” and it’s kind of rocking! I keep waiting for Jack to come back out and add a not-so-clean verse.

Erica, 3:45 p.m.: Garth Brooks had the entire crowd jumping to “Shout.” Impressive, old man.

Gil, 3:45 p.m.: You know what looks amazing? Almost two miles of people, hundreds of thousands, thrusting their hands in the air and screaming along to “Shout.” Huh, three songs for Garth? Who knew he had this gospel thing going on?

Erica 3:53 p.m.: Stevie Wonder, Shakira and Usher — quite the lineup for one song. Sounds like Usher just sang a love song to Obama with a little “Obbbammma!” The audience LOVED it.

Gil, 3:53 p.m.: Wait? Usher and Stevie Wonder doing “Higher Ground” with Shakira — in skintight black leather pants? Oh, this IS a whole new thing kicking off here.

Gil, 3:56 p.m.: Why do I hope Samuel L. Jackson goes off-script? But instead he inspires with the words of late civil-rights icon Rosa Parks and President Kennedy. Yeah, that’s way, way better. A roar rises up from the back of the crowd and ripples to the front at the mention of Martin Luther King!

U2

Erica, 3:57 p.m.: Samuel L Jackson: “Martin Luther King’s dream is being realized by all of us being here today.” Nice. And now Bono and the Edge are out…

Gil, 4:00 p.m.: And U2! “In the Name of Love.” Perfect. The wings of the stage are packed. C’mon Bono, preach a bit — I know you want to.

Erica, 4:00 p.m.: Lots of smiles in the crowd for Bono. They cheer at his reference to Palestinians.

Gil, 4:03 p.m.: Yeah! Not just an American dream, but an Irish dream, a European dream … a Palestinian dream (hmm)… let freedom reign. Some bands just know how to capture the moment … and add that bit of edge that pushes the edge, pardon the pun.

Erica, 4:03 p.m.: Energy in the crowd is insane. Who else can say they saw Bono perform for Obama on the mall? Ahhh!!

Erica, 4:08 p.m.: Did that bald eagle just fail to fly or was that just me? Hmm. Ominous.

Gil, 4:12 p.m.: Everyone kept waiting for that giant eagle to fly off onto the slate gray sky.

Gil, 4:13 p.m.: President-elect Obama tops U2 in the inspiration department, talking about the hard times to come, the pool that reflects the dream of Dr. King stretching out in front of him and the monument behind him to a president who made it possible for him to be here today.

Gil, 4:19 p.m.: The roar of approval keeps washing up from the faraway crowd.

Gil, 4:21 p.m.: “This Land is Your Land” — hundreds of thousands of voices singing along with Springsteen and Pete Seeger and a choir of children, black, white and brown. As far as the eye can see there are children bouncing on the shoulders of their smiling parents.

Gil, 4:25 p.m.: Beyoncé bringing it all back home with “America the Beautiful.” All the artists are holding hands behind her and joining in. Wow, just wow.

“Be the Change: Live From the Inaugural” will air live on MTV on Tuesday, January 20, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. MTV News will have wall-to-wall coverage of the event and of the scenes in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kenya in the days leading up to the event and in the days that follow.