Turning D.C. into concert central

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If his inaugural celebrations are any indication, then President-elect Barack Obama is going to be one rockin’ leader of the Free World. Concerts celebrating the new presidency are planned over several days in Washington, D.C., with HBO and ABC pulling together the big ones and airing them live across the nation.

HBO kicks off the festivities Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial with an afternoon of music and readings featuring such performers as Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder. Perhaps the biggest name of all, Obama himself, will start things off with a welcome to the crowd.

Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. In the coming days, more artists are expected to join the lineup. The concert is free and open to the public.


“This is a great opportunity to capture a historic event in a very meaningful setting,” said Don Mischer, who is producing and directing the show. “We will have the statue of Abraham Lincoln looking down on our stage and a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people lining the mall -- a tableau any director would relish.”

Mischer said he expects about a million people to attend the event in the anticipated 18-degree weather, watching the proceedings on Jumbotron screens.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, are expected to make an appearance at ABC’s “Neighborhood Inaugural Ball” after Obama’s swearing-in (at which Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma are expected to perform) on Jan. 20. The network will broadcast live on television and over the Internet and is expected to announce its musical lineup today.

Disney also is jumping into the act with a Kids’ Inaugural concert to honor military families, to be hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden. The show, which will probably feature the latest white-hot Disney act the Jonas Brothers, will be broadcast live on the Disney Channel and on Radio Disney.

In addition, there are at least half a dozen other concerts -- over three days -- around town, making D.C. seem like the most elaborate Grammy venue on the planet.

Veteran show organizer George Stevens Jr., who is executive producing the Lincoln Memorial concert, said the plan is to “root the event in history, celebrating the moments when our nation has united to face great challenges and prevail.”


The event is expected to be funded with donations gathered by Obama’s inaugural committee.

HBO has agreed to work with its distributors to allow those with access to cable, telcos or satellite television to watch the Sunday event free. (The broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. ET/PT.) For more information, visit the 2009 presidential inauguration website at regularly for updates.

No word yet on how they’ll be distributing the free tickets to the show. Better get there early, though, or you’ll be listening to Bruce from the Jefferson Memorial.