Tom Hanks, John Legend and more: Everything you missed at Biden's star-studded inauguration special

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
John Legend performs during the Celebrating America Primetime Special.
John Legend performs during the Celebrating America Primetime Special.
Photo: Handout/Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty
  • Wednesday night saw the stars come out to celebrate President Joe Biden at the Celebrating America special hosted by Tom Hanks.
  • Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and John Legend performed, before Katy Perry closed the evening with Firework as a light show burst out behind the Washington Memorial.
  • "It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times, we not only dream, we do," the first woman vice president, Kamala Harris said during the special.

Fireworks burst over the White House Wednesday for a star-studded night celebrating America's new President Joe Biden, a pandemic-era special that replaced the traditional bevy of balls.

A-listers made a valiant effort to keep up the energy at the mostly virtual, pre-produced show dubbed "Celebrating America". Among the few live artists was opener Bruce Springsteen, a man strumming his guitar in solitude, save for Abraham Lincoln in his neoclassical sanctuary.

Clad in jeans, a black peacoat and three discreet gold hoops in his ears, America's dad played Land of Hope and Dreams to launch the special event hosted by actor Tom Hanks set at the Lincoln Memorial.

Biden and his family bopped before a TV screen in their new Washington home, as pop star Demi Lovato got an assist from healthcare workers nationwide to sing the late Bill Withers' Lovely Day.

R&B singer John Legend delivered a funky, soulful live rendition of Nina Simone's Feeling Good, and Katy Perry closed out the evening with her smash Firework, a light show bursting out behind the Washington Memorial as Biden and his wife Jill watched from the balcony.

"It was so special for me to celebrate with the nation in front of the memorial," tweeted Legend following his performance.

"AND I loved honouring the late great Nina Simone, my constant source of musical inspiration."

'New beginning'

Veteran and incoming presidents along with campaigning hopefuls have long sought to lean on star power and song to bolster their images.

Along with the celebrities, Biden also got a bump from his predecessors: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton delivered a video message to the incoming US leader and the country they each presided over.

"It's a new beginning," said Bill Clinton. "Everybody needs to get off their high horse, and reach out to their friends and neighbors, and try to make it possible."

The primetime special also featured performances from stars including Yo-Yo Ma, Jon Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake with Ant Clemons - while Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Ozuna brought back the megahit Despacito.

"To some a presidential inauguration is a tradition, an act that marks the commitment of a new four-year term," Tom Hanks said.

"Yet, in truth, inauguration day is nothing more than the swearing in of the next national leaders, and this day is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal."

Both Biden and Kamala Harris also made an appearance at the memorial, with the latter saying the moment "embodies our character as a nation".

"It demonstrates who we are, even in dark times, we not only dream, we do," the first woman vice president said.

"We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon, and then we plant our flag on it."


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.