At This Kids Concert, Politics Rocks

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It was the inaugural concert for the YouTube generation, and Miley Cyrus, Bow Wow and the Jonas Brothers led a fan screamfest at Verizon Center last night that was equal parts history lesson and showbiz.

"Wave your hands like this, D.C.!" Bow Wow chanted. Left to right, left to right, went thousands of hands, including those of Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama in their front-row seats.

"If you think you can't do your homework and watch TV at the same time . . . " comedian George Lopez called out to the tweener-filled crowd. It was in the midst of a playful call-and-response remix of the president-elect's signature line.

"YES WE CAN!" they roared back.

And then the Jonas Brothers launched into "SOS," their first hit -- with nearly 60 million views on YouTube, making it one of the most-viewed clips in the site's history -- and the rest of the night was a foot-stomping, power-chord sing-along.

It's true, I gave my all for you

Now my heart's in two

And I can't find my other half.

Everybody knew every word.

"The Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future" was a 90-minute set that sprinted through star cameos and cartoon clips of "American Idol" and presidential trivia contests, interspersed with tributes to military families and their sacrifice and service. Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Usher all dropped by the show to offer their praise for members of the nation's armed forces. The show aired later in the evening on the Disney Channel.

But the most stunning sight at the show had to be the empty seats. In the venue, which can hold upwards of 18,000 for concerts, there were at least a thousand vacant seats, including a smattering on the floor. This, despite the fact that the tickets were free, despite the fact that clutches of hopeful parents and children stood outside before the show asking concertgoers if they had an extra tickets. The Presidential Inaugural Committee had said in an earlier news release that 1,000 tickets had been given to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Yesterday, the committee Web site said more than 1,000 were issued to military family members. But, for whatever reason, the venue had plenty of room for fans of performers who routinely sell out larger arenas on their own.

That said, the show drew enthusiastic young fans from a cross the nation. It was a girl-heavy crowd, and racially mixed.

Kelly Gordon of Columbia was hosting relatives from across the country, including her 5-year-old niece, Alyssa Taylor, from Chicago. She was wearing a pink knit cap and gloves. She could not decide whom she was most excited to see.

"I like all of them," she said, not budging an inch from her auntie's knee.

Elizabeth Lee, a 12-year-old from San Marcos, Tex., was in town with her family for the inaugural weekend, and wasn't missing anything.

"Yesterday we went to the concert on the Mall, and the day before that we went to see Obama in Baltimore," she said. "I think that might have been the best. He made a really good speech."

She added, though, that it wouldn't be exactly bad to see the Jonas Brothers knock out "SOS," which, of course, they did.

The event was officially hosted by Jill Biden and Michelle Obama, both of whom briefly took the stage mid-show to address the crowd. Short of the Jonas Brothers, Michelle Obama drew the loudest and longest applause. "We love you, Michelle Obama!" three young girls called out in unison, over and over again.

"You kids are the future of this great nation," Obama told them, to a roar of applause. She also reminded them that "you don't need to wear a uniform to serve this country," urging them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, visit the elderly or write letters to troops based abroad.

The show was heavy with Disney Channel stars and opened with Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana. It also featured "High School Musical" heartthrob Corbin Bleu, and Demi Lovato, who co-starred with the Jonas Brothers in last summer's Disney movie "Camp Rock." She turned in high-energy takes of two hits, "Get Back," and "La La Land," and was gone. Cyrus brought her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, who co-stars on her Disney television show, for a duet. The older crowd members were relieved to learn he was not going to perform "Achy Breaky Heart."

But it was the Jonas Brothers whose closing three-song set brought the Obama girls -- Mom included -- to their feet, and who sent the crowd, energized and singing along, out into night, into a city of revelry.

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