Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Obama Concert at Lincoln Memorial

Blogging the concert at the Lincoln Memorial as it is replayed on HBO. Thanks to my Facebook pal Ted Gideonse for "statusing" this.

I flip to HBO and there are two of my favorites, Bettye LaVette and John Bon Jovi, singing an unlikely duet. Wow. I am just tingling with this moment. She got the soul, they both got the chops, and he is still a stud.

Tom Hanks always seems a little Canadian to me ... but performing in front of Lincoln, and speaking about Lincoln, and quoting Lincoln from 1862:

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

And then from 1858, the last debate with Stephen Douglas:
It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.

And then:
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.

And at Gettysburg, finally:
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That is the America the 'publicans have eschewed. We are the patriots, liberals are the ones who are faithful to the principles upon which the republic was founded.

But wait, it is Marissa Tome, quoting Reagan. This will be the part of Obama that will be a little annoying. Gotta do it .. gotta do the bipartisan thing, I guess. And he is very smooth about it. Look at all the news about him and McCain. But really, they had their shot. Reagan is the the start of the madness, the moronic anti-government philosophy that has led us to these terrible straits. remember it was in his first inaugural that he said that government is the problem. That was the start of the madness, the "one party, no government" theory that has led us to these dangerous straits. So long as paeans to Reagan are just stagecraft, we can hold our noses and carry on. But no substance there.

James Taylor appears ... an old hippie quavers. We have come back ... what goes around, comes around. There is a time and a season. I actually do not know who John Legend is, but a fine voice. Same with Jennifer Nettles.

Shower the people with love.

Joe Biden takes the stage and leads with family, faith, and work. Fair chance. Work, dignity, respect. Looking your child in the eye. Honey, it's going to be alright.

Next thing, he'll start singing the Ballad of Joe Hill.

I wish his voice was half an octave lower. Moving enough, but graciously short. His speech, that is.

Now, John Mellencamp ... Ain't that America. We've been listening to this rock ballad for years, and now he plays it as red carpet to the recovery of the White House from the forces of darkness. Who could have imagined this? Yes, I am still tingling.

I want to think it's corny ... but it is spine tingling.

Queen Latifah speaks about Marion Anderson and her 1939 concert at the same place, in front of Lincoln. My Country 'tis of Thee. And Josh Groban sings it again in the same place ... with Heather Hedley .. and the Gay Men's Chorus. My gawd. I am crying.

Let Freedom Ring.

Alas, there is no acknowledgment that it is the Gay Men's Chorus. What can I say.

Oh wow. Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow and a male vocalist whose name I missed. I have followed Herbie Hancock since forever. They sing One Love.

Oneness is the underlying philosophical conundrum that has bedeviled civilization since Constantine's lamentable feint to the Chi Rho in 812 ... everybody is for oneness, and it is a curiosity that even in celebration of diversity, oneness still resonates. Oneness feels good, it feels simple, it dissolves the persistent diversity into a bath of warm fuzziness.

Yeah, let's get together and feel alright.

And now, Tiger Woods. A stiff speech about his military family. Heartfelt, but I am not sure that he knows how to feel heart in public. He is Obama's cypher in a strange way. Biracial, he burst an equally segregated club ... professional gold ... by reason both of his consummate skill and his shattering clam in the face of crisis.

Renee Fleming shows us what a big voice really means. A little slow ... these classical singers are always a little slow ... but man, do they blow the lid of a big note.

You'll never walk alone.
Touching photos of military families. Soaring music.

Jack Black! Remember the crazy vid he did, after the fact, against Prop 8. He channels Lincoln also with reference to Yosemite Valley and the origins of conservationism. Alas, I am not sure of the name of the women who is channeling Teddy Roosevelt.

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve it. Man can only mar it.

Wow ... country boy Garth Brooks, looking a little grey, singing Bye Bye Miss America Pie, salutes environmentalism with nods to gawd and rock n roll.

Jeez, these Obama folks know pageant and presentation!

And cut to Obama, groovin to the music ... and you know he gets it. He's singing along, and all the words are right on his lips.

What if this really is a moment, and the terms change. Obama is saying that is the deal ... he is saying it
You know you want to make me want to shout ... everybody now ... I want you to know ... yeah yeah yeah ... a little bit louder now ...

And then ...
We Shall be free ... walk proud.

He shouts

God bless America, God bless the world, love one another.

A country singer. Keep that in mind.

Ashley Judd and Forest Whittaker. Loses me ... I guess I do not keep up with all the constantly evolving celebrity, but I do not precisely know who these people are.

This is about art and artists ... courage, honor, hope, pride, compassion, pity, sacrifice. The poet's voice. The pillar to help us prevail.

Omigawd. Stevie Wonder ... and Usher. But Stevie Wonder. And Shakira. But Stevie Wonder.

People ... till I reached the highest ground.

We reached the highest ground. Can you imagine the depth of Stevie Wonder at this moment. How long his journey, how dark the night, how bright the moment. This has to be one of the greatest moments in his career.

Till I reach the highest ground, till my last breath.

This is the highest ground.

Samuel L. Jackson in a beret talking about foot soldiers in the quest for freedom. Talking about Rosa Parks. Talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. A bit of a hackneyed speech. But this from Rosa Parks:
I did not get on the bus to get arrested. I got on the bus to go home.

O lord, U2 and Bono ... Let Freedom Ring.

Now Bono no longer has not to cooperate with conservatives ... he can work with the real progressives.
In the name of love ... One man ... not just an American dream, also an Irish Dream, African dream, Israeli dream, Palestinian dream.

Let freedom ring. Every village, every hamlet, every city. Let freedom ring.

O you look so beautiful tonight. In the city of blinding lights.

And now Obama simply walks to the podium and gives his short address, not an afterthought, but underplayed.
Just what it is we love about America ... this celebration of American renewal.

But here is where we have to part ... even in this moment, they managed to slight us, to give short shrift to gay people. Gene Robinson's invocation was not broadcast, nor was it mentioned in any article I could find, not in the New York Times. And the Gay Men's Chorus that brought a tear to my eye above ... it was not identified.

So, in the midst of this stirring moment, remember that we are still the silenced ones. We will not be silent any more. That said, I am stirred in my soul more than I have been for a very long time.

Omigawd ... Pete Seeger ... as I went walking that ribbon of highway!!
This land was made for you and me.

Obama, we want in ... all the way in.

Beyonce closes with an America the Beautiful that would stir even the dead.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Photos by Arod from around town over the last months.

No comments: