Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama Inauguration Concert Rehearsal

I decided this evening to try my luck at watching some rehearsals at the Lincoln Memorial for tomorrow's concert to kick off the Inauguration events for Barack Obama. Given that I only live a couple miles away, it would have been no real loss to me if I got there and nothing was going on. Initially, I thought about walking over, but the 25 degree temperatures outside had me thinking about how I could best approach by car. I put on my two sweatshirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, grabbed my camera, threw on my jacket, and headed out the door. As it turned out I was able to park very close to the Lincoln despite the numerous trucks, vans, and trailers stationed around there to setup and produce the show.

As I approached the grounds of The Mall, walking from my car, I took in the increasing volume of U2 rehearsing 'Pride (In The Name of Love)'. It was at this point that I knew it was worth the trip over. I continued my walk, until I wasn't able to get any closer due to the many railings sealing off what will be the VIP seating area. I was able to stand off to the left of those seats with a very clear view of the stage about 30 yards in front of me. The area I was in will no doubt be full as soon as they open the gates tomorrow at 8:30 AM for the 2:30 PM show. I was joined there by around 40 people, all who were braving the cold temperatures and appreciating how none of us will have this good of a view tomorrow. Having reached my viewing position, I was able to watch (and take a video of) U2's performance of 'City of Blinding Lights'.

After U2 left the stage, a voice over the loud speaker said, let's prepare for James Taylor 'Shower The People'. I admit that I am a big James Taylor fan, so I was excited to find out that not only was the rehearsal not done, but I would get to see someone I really like take the stage next. With my face getting colder and colder and my hands numb from calling to tell people I had just seen U2 perform, I got to watch JT and John Legend run through 'Shower The People' around four times altogether. I have no idea how James was able to play his turquoise Fender for such a long time in those temperatures.

It was during Taylor's performance that I got to chatting with the guy standing next to me. He told me about attending the same concert for Bill Clinton's inauguration back in January 1993, which featured Micheal Jackson, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin. He'd also seen 150 Grateful Dead shows over the years, worked as a concert promoter in his past, and lived in Manhattan for 25 years. We had plenty to talk about. After James Taylor wrapped up and I was about to get myself out of the freezing cold, the producer announced that they were going to prepare the stage for "Garth". I definitely wasn't going to walk away now. Garth Brooks ran through his rehearsal, backed by a full choir. His performance included verses of 'American Pie' and 'Shout'. He had the small group of people gathered by me singing along and throwing up their hands. It may have been a rehearsal, but Mr. Brooks performed it like Obama and the world was watching. He was great.

The rehearsal was completed as Garth finished on-stage, and at that point I had been out in the freezing temps for over two hours. I have to remember, when I go back to the same venue tomorrow to watch the actual concert take place, that two pairs of socks aren't enough.

On my way back to the car, I noticed some camera flashes going off by the railing leading to the backstage area. After walking over to see what was going on, I saw Garth Brooks shaking hands, taking pictures, and chatting with a small group of no more than 20 people. He gave each person who wanted to talk to him a few minutes of conversation. He snapped pictures, signed autographs, and seemed to really enjoy meeting the public. I waited my turn, shook his hand, told him my name when he asked for it, and got my picture taken with Mr. Garth Brooks. He couldn't have been nicer. It goes to show you that you really can earn fans one at a time. I, like the others I'm sure, walked back to my car smiling.

So now I have tomorrow's concert to look forward to. I'll get to see Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and many others. I'm certain that I won't have the same view that I had tonight. I'll likely be watching on TV monitors even though I'll be there in person. I'll also be the one who got to meet Garth Brooks and see U2 perform the night before for far less people.


NovaHomeGuy said...

Very cool!!

Hope you don't mind, I put a blog entry link ( to your article.

Thanks for posting!

Isorski said...

Very cool! I thought some of the performances were really good and others...Whoo, who thought it was a good idea to put Cheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock and that Black Eyed Peas dude together? Were they even playing the same song? I guess it looked good on paper.

I am glad you were able to see that rehearsal. Chance of a fricking lifetime! Thanks for sharing the experience.