“We have all been witness to a very grueling year and a half for the president-elect. We have been witness to a barrage of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation, not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump whose only desire was to make America great again,” Voight said. “He certainly didn’t need this job. And, yes, yes, God answered all our prayers. Because here it is, we will be part of history, all of us.”
Voight continued: “And President Lincoln, who sits here with us, I’m sure, is smiling knowing America will be saved by an honest and good man who will work for all the people no matter their creed or color,” he said. “So, my friends, let us rejoice in knowing that from this time on, we will see a renewed America.”
The Florida drummer, who has performed with Mariah Carey and Paula Abdul, received plenty of backlash for appearing at the inauguration, but he shook it off: “As a first generation Indian American, I view my participation in the inauguration as a unique opportunity to bring visibility to others like me,” he wrote on Facebook.
Ravidrums got the concert off to a pretty strange start, as it’s unclear whether anyone was expecting a frenetic drum performance. The weirdness was rivaled only by the dancers in glowing costumes.
The soul singer belted out the classic “America the Beautiful,” as one of the more traditional parts of the concert.
Trump, seated next to wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, nodded and slightly swayed along to the music provided by this trio, made up of singers from various country bands: Tim Rushlow of Little Texas, Larry Stewart of Restless Heart, and Richie McDonald of Lonestar. They performed a medley of their greatest hits, including “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” and “Why Does It Have to Be” from Restless Heart. Rushlow sang Little Texas’s “Amy’s Back in Austin” and “God Blessed Texas,” while McDonald crooned “Walking in Memphis” and “I’m Already There.”
“It’s an honor for us to be here representing music from Nashville, Tennessee, all the great bands out of Nashville over the last 30 years,” Stewart said.
Greenwood, who wrote “God Bless the USA,” strolled out and performed the rest of his signature patriotic tune. Of all the songs, Trump was the biggest fan of this one — he stood up about halfway through (and appeared to urge his family to do the same), singing along to a few words during the chorus. Afterward, Trump brought in Greenwood for a handshake and briefly chatted with the rest of the Frontmen of Country, while the crowd chanted “USA! USA!”
The pop-rock band most famous in the early 2000s kicked things off with “Broken,” a song with lyrics that could relate to the Trump voters who feel “forgotten”: “This is the call to the broken, stand up and take back your world today.” Then the group ticked off its biggest hits (“When I’m Gone,” “Kryptonite,” “Here Without You”) as Trump sat in his chair and swayed a bit but also turned to talk to his family.
Never heard of these “four musical dads from Utah”? You’re not alone, although apparently they have one of the most-viewed YouTube channels ever. (This sparked CNN’s Jake Tapper to wonder whether they were the first YouTube sensation to play a presidential inaugural concert. It’s possible.)
After an instrumental piano performance, one of the Piano Guys spoke: “Okay, America, it’s time to put all our differences aside,” he declared. “It’s time to unite our hearts, our minds and our voices as one. Because when we do, it’s gonna be okay.” This led into a jaunty, upbeat song called, fittingly, “Okay,” that repeated the line “It’s gonna be okay!” over and over. Trump stood up to sway along during this song, too.
The country star closed out the show on a very patriotic note, with military tribute “American Soldier” and “Made in America.”
“On behalf of my family, my band and all my fans, I want to salute the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard,” Keith said during his set. “Thanks to Barack Obama for your service. And thanks for the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. I salute you.”
As he launched into “Beer For My Horses” (recorded as a duet with Willie Nelson), Keith foisted a red cup into the sky, and tweaked the lyrics from “we’ll all meet back at the local saloon” to “we’ll all get smashed at the inaugural celebration” — an interesting song choice, given that Trump does not drink alcohol.
Keith finished out the set with his best-known song, the post-9/11 anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” which he dedicated to his father. The song includes the famous line, “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way,” and Keith sang it with gusto.
At the end of the nearly two-hour concert, Trump spoke to the crowd: “I’d like to congratulate our incredible entertainers tonight. Toby and Lee Greenwood and all of the great talent. It was really very special,” he said, also thanking the military band.
“This started out tonight being a small little concert, and then we had the idea maybe we’ll do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but if it has, very seldom,” Trump said. (As many on Twitter pointed out, President Obama hosted an inaugural concert there in 2009.) “And the people came by the thousands and thousands and here we are tonight.”
Trump added that he was looking forward to Friday’s official ceremony: “We’re going to unify our country. And our phrase — you all know it, half of you are wearing the hat — ‘Make America Great Again.’ But we’re going to make America great for all our people, everybody.”