(Reuters) – An emotional Lady Gaga performed a dramatic version of the U.S. national anthem, Garth Brooks sang a cappella, and Tom Hanks hosted a star-studded nighttime celebration to cap President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
On a day marked by diversity and appeals for unity, Gaga wowed in a huge fuchsia Schiaparelli couture silk skirt and black top adorned by a large gold brooch of a dove carrying an olive branch as she sung “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
Gaga at one point gestured to the U.S. flag flying high over the Capitol, the seat of Congress that just two weeks ago was attacked by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump seeking to overturn Biden’s election victory.
“She slayed it. I AM GAGA FOR GAGA!!!” actor Ed Helms wrote in a tweet.
Ahead of her performance, Gaga said on Twitter she wanted to “acknowledge our past, be healing for our present, and be passionate for a future where we work together lovingly.”
Country singer Brooks, a Republican, chose jeans and a black shirt and took off his black Stetson hat to sing an unaccompanied version of “Amazing Grace”, asking Americans at the ceremony and watching at home to sing the last verse along with him.
Afterward, before replacing his coronavirus mask, Brooks hugged or shook hands with Biden, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Jennifer Lopez, dressed in white pants and a long matching coat, performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America The Beautiful,” interjecting in Spanish the part of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance that says, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
At just 22 years old, poet Amanda Gorman captured the mixed emotions of the past four years with a poem in which she referred to herself as a “skinny Black girl, descended from slaves and raised by a single mother (who) can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”
The cultural celebrations continued Wednesday night with a broadcast across television and social media, hosted by “Forrest Gump” actor Hanks, who is known as “America’s Dad.”
The events, bringing together some of the biggest white, Black and Hispanic celebrities, marked a sharp contrast with Trump’s inauguration in 2017, which was low on star power.
Wednesday’s TV special, called “Celebrating America,” opened with Bruce Springsteen, standing alone with an acoustic guitar on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams.”
Standing nearby, Hanks acknowledged “deep division and a troubling rancor” in recent years, but said “tonight we ponder the United States of America … and the hopes and dreams we all share for a more perfect union.”
Other performers included John Legend, Demi Lovato and country singers Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard, who paired for a song about unity called “Undivided.”
Delivery drivers, healthcare workers and others also told stories of perserverence during the coronavirus pandemic. Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl, the son of a public school teacher, dedicated a song to “all of our unshakeable teachers.”
The show concluded with Katy Perry, in a white gown with blue and red trim, singing her hit “Firework.” Biden and his wife, Jill, watched from the White House as fireworks lit up the sky around the capital city’s monuments.
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(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Lincoln Feast.)