President Biden’s Inauguration Concert brought out huge stars and the highest production value of a virtual concert I’ve seen since the pandemic began. Because of the circumstances, many of the performances were played to empty streets in different cities or in Washington, DC against our most beautiful backdrops (if you forgot the beauty of the Lincoln Memorial — John Legend will remind you). Below are some of the evening highlights.
Austin soul band — Black Pumas — owned the night with their performance of the song, “Colors” from their 2019 self-titled album. Led by singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada, the Grammy nominated band performed ACL Live in Austin. Quesada won a Grammy for his work with Latin funk band Grupo Fantasma and according to Vulture, he connected with Burton through a mutual friend. Burton was busking in Austin at the time.
If you’re looking for more Black Pumas content after watching the video below, I’d encourage you to watch their stirring rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” After learning how fiercely protective Chapman’s of her music, I love it even more knowing that she likely had to approve it. You can also see them on NPR’s Tiny Desk series.
John Legend’s stirring performance of “Feeling Good” was joyously juxtaposed against his wife’s hilarious Instagram stories, which featured her sitting on a windowsill “reporting the news.” But when Chrissy Teigen captured Legend on camera seconds before he performed — she showed the world just how cool and calm this guy actually is. For a voice with that prowess and an event of that magnitude, I would think the guy would be sweating a little — but not a bead.
Legend took to his Instagram to reflect on the evening, saying, “It was so special for me to celebrate with the nation in front of the memorial to one of our greatest presidents. AND I loved honoring the late great Nina Simone, my constant source of musical inspiration.” Lincoln, Nina, and Legend? Say no more. Watch below.
Demi Lovato is my father’s favorite performance of the night, and since he has high standards, she is getting a special mention. The powerhouse singer managed to keep our interest in an empty room with a little help from a green-screen background featuring clips of healthcare workers and other Americans across the country. Her rendition of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” was meant to uplift America, and I’m pretty sure she did just that. For music-aficionados that enjoy fun facts — Withers 18-second long note at the end of the original tune is one of the longest recorded in pop history.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE + ANT CLEMENS
Justin Timberlake reminded me of his talent 10 times over, and his performance with Ant Clemens proved magical. The duo performed in Timberlake’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee inside Stax Museum of American Soul Music. According to People the the singers were “joined by former Stax Music Academy students and musical director Adam Blackstone, who arranged the live music.” You might remember Clemons’ voice from his appearance on Kanye West’s 2018 single “All Mine.” He earned a Grammy nomination for best R&B album with his debut LP HAPPY 2 BE HERE.
Clemons and Timberlake wrote the song, “Better Days” only a few months ago and since I initially thought it was a classic that I didn’t recognize — I’d say it’s damn good.
Katy left me gobsmacked. And what an incredible arrangement. That’s all I have to say about that.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Sometimes a disadvantage can be used in one’s favor. Had this been flooded with folks, these performances would have been far less magical.