No big stars, so Trump banks on patriotic fervour

The audience cheering during the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration for Mr Trump at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday that was anchored by country music veterans.
The audience cheering during the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration for Mr Trump at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday that was anchored by country music veterans.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

WASHINGTON • Many top stars declined to perform for Mr Donald Trump's presidential inauguration, so he surrounded himself in patriotic fervour at a concert anchored by country music veterans.

On Thursday, Mr Trump threw a celebration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that culminated in fireworks that lit up the Washington sky.

He swayed happily to the music in his chair behind bulletproof glass and delivered a speech urging unity, but his show lacked the superstars who performed for his predecessor Barack Obama, such as Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and U2.

The top A-lister was Toby Keith, one of the biggest country music stars of the 1990s. The singer has spoken with admiration about Mr Obama in the past.

Opening with American Soldier, Keith hailed the United States military and added: "Thanks to Barack Obama for your service and thanks for the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. I salute you."

Another country music veteran, outspoken conservative Lee Greenwood, played his 1984 anthem God Bless The USA, after which Mr Trump walked over to him to clasp his shoulders.

Country music traditionally has a whiter, more right-leaning fan base than other US genres, and Green- wood's entry onto the stage was teased during a medley of hits by the Frontmen of Country group.

As is customary for inaugurations, Mr Trump was feted by military bands. He earlier hailed their skills, and said he wanted an "elegant" occasion.

The celebration in the end was not devoid of African Americans. Sam Moore, an 81-year-old R&B great best known for Soul Man, sang patriotic hymn God Bless America, backed by a choir and organ with a gospel cadence.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'No big stars, so Trump banks on patriotic fervour'. Print Edition | Subscribe