The day’s programming was heavy on country music, “God Bless America,” and a hefty number of bagpipes. Two friends, Kim Shourds and Susan Perkins Lovelady, drove in from Norfolk, Va., to attend the evening’s concerts. They danced and sang along to “God Bless Texas,” but as they took a break, they said the volatile political climate wasn’t far from their minds.
“This is a celebration of America,” Ms. Perkins Lovelady, 53, said. “After all of the negativity of the past year, all of the positivity is a good thing. It’s a heartsore country.”
Kenny and Katherine Dunham decided to make the four-hour drive from Kinston, N.C., after hearing that Representative John Lewis of Georgia would boycott Mr. Trump’s inauguration. The Dunhams were not fazed by the lack of top-flight entertainers.
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“I think if they don’t want to perform, they shouldn’t perform,” Mr. Dunham, 60, said. “But at the same time, my understanding is they weren’t asked to. Toby Keith is going to perform. Lee Greenwood is going to perform.”
Some of the loudest cheers of the evening were for Jon Voight, the only high-profile Hollywood actor to lend his name to the event, as he spoke to the crowd about the “barrage of propaganda” that Mr. Trump had faced in his race to the presidency.
“He certainly didn’t need this job,” Mr. Voight said of Mr. Trump. “And yes, God answered all of our prayers.”
Mr. Voight then introduced Sam Moore, one half of the duo Sam & Dave, who performed a soulful rendition of “America the Beautiful.”
Mr. Trump made his first appearance about an hour into the show — called the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” — when he walked down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with his wife, Melania. He turned and saluted Lincoln’s statue, then descended the steps with a small wave and gave his supporters a thumbs up.
Mr. Trump and his family watched the performance of the Frontmen of Country, a group featuring three lead singers: Richie McDonald of Lonestar, Larry Stewart of Restless Heart, and Tim Rushlow, formerly of Little Texas. They played a medley that included a cover of Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis” and Lonestar’s hit “I’m Already There.”
Mr. Greenwood then joined for a performance of “God Bless the U.S.A.” — Mr. Trump’s walk-on song during the campaign. The president-elect could be seen mouthing the words of the song on the side of the stage, to the delight of the crowd. After the performance, Mr. Trump pumped his fist, and embraced the musicians as they walked off stage.
The audience was subdued for 3 Doors Down, an alternative rock band that hasn’t made the Billboard Top 10 chart since 2003, and the Piano Guys, a group featuring a cellist and pianist that is known for its eclectic covers of pop songs. However, it was Mr. Keith, the country star and the night’s biggest draw, who brought the National Mall roaring back to life.
There has never been a president crossing over so directly from the pop-culture world as Mr. Trump, who remains an executive producer of “The Celebrity Apprentice” and has cultivated big names in Hollywood for decades (even making a “Home Alone 2” cameo). Yet those big names are shunning his inauguration, including Thursday’s event, unlike the Lincoln Memorial concert in 2009 for President Obama that featured Beyoncé and other stars. The artists who are showing up are reflective of the cross-section of the United States that buoyed Mr. Trump to victory in November, while belying the opulence he is known for.
Standing by the memorial’s reflecting pool a few hours before the show, John Stephan, a 62-year-old retired banker, said he left California on Tuesday to be part of the festivities and snagged a ticket to the concert at the last minute.
As for the various entertainers who had snubbed the concert — or even said yes and then backpedaled — Mr. Stephan was dismissive.
“I think it’s sad when anybody says, you know, ‘My opinion of a person’s more important than let’s just get the country going,’” he said.
Lines to get into the show began forming in the morning. About 5,000 tickets were available, and the crowd steadily filled the empty spots near the memorial and on the mall by the start of the show.
Along the streets leading to the memorial, people pulled wagons full of homemade Trump merchandise, including Make America Great Again hats and Trump scarves. Rick Storm traveled in from Philadelphia with a backpack full of $10 T-shirts to sell.
By 1 p.m., he had sold only one T-shirt.
“I just started,” Mr. Storm said.
Sitting on the ground near the reflecting pool, Tom Boatman and his wife, Kathy, were resting and waiting for headliners to start. They had driven from Cookeville, Tenn., to attend the inauguration. The couple said they were both looking forward to the concerts, but the big priority for them was to see Mr. Trump take office.
“It’ll be over this time tomorrow,” Mr. Boatman, who works as a plant operations manager, said of Mr. Obama’s administration. “I didn’t vote for him, but I had hope.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign, as some of his supporters see it, was never about fitting in with the Hollywood crowd. Thursday’s lineup suited them just fine. Truth be told, they didn’t want Beyoncé anyway. They wanted Mr. Trump, who was expected to speak at the concert.
“That’ll be the highlight,” Mr. Stephan said.
At the closing of the show, Mr. Trump gave the crowd what it wanted. “You’re not forgotten anymore,” he said as part of his brief remarks.
With that, a massive fireworks display started over the Lincoln Memorial, including one firework that formed the letters “U.S.A.”
|The country star Toby Keith was the event’s biggest musical attraction. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times|
Trump Inauguration Acts Unveiled: Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down to Perform
The upcoming inauguration concert for president-elect Donald Trump at Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial saw some bigger names added to its lineup today (Jan. 13).
The Inaugural Committee announced that country star Toby Keith, Broadway star Jennifer Holliday and '00s mainstream rock fixtures 3 Doors Down are among the artists who will commemorate Trump taking office as the 45th president.
Jon Voight, perhaps the most vocal and high-profile Hollywood backer of Trump, will also be in attendance at the event.
So far, Trump's inauguration has been hobbled by the perception that major entertainment industry names have refused invites to perform at the festivities.
According to a post on Three Doors Down's Instagram, other performers at the event will include DJ Ravidrums, The Piano Guys, Tim Rushlow ("Little Texas"), Larry Stewart ("Restless Heart"), Marty Roe ("Diamond Rio") and "God Bless the U.S.A." singer Lee Greenwood. See the band's post below.
In addition, Billboard has learned of several more country artists who will be playing inauguration events, including Darryl Worley (Great American Inaugural Ball), Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts (Veterans Inaugural Ball Salute to Heroes) and Larry Gatlin (Black Tie & Boots 2017 Inaugural Ball).