Bono, Bruce Springsteen and Beyoncé for Barack Obama inaugural concert

A star-spangled lineup to celebrate the president-elect's inauguration will include Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Mary J Blige, Denzel Washington and, er, Garth Brooks

It feels like something Barack Obama dreamed up in his bedroom. "Why not have Beyoncé play my inauguration ... and Bruce Springsteen too. Heck, bring in Stevie Wonder, Renée Fleming … and how about U2? Bono likes me. He'd do it."

And indeed he will. All of these artists have been announced to headline a concert on the Sunday before the president-elect's formal inauguration. The free gig will take place at 2pm EST at the Lincoln Memorial, with Obama in attendance.

"Everybody is going to do one song, but there were will be duets and trios and choirs," executive producer George Stevens Jr explained to the Washington Post. "We're never going to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, let's give it up for Beyoncé,'" underlined another producer, Don Mischer. "It's going to be connecting music to history and ideas and American values."

We can only hope that this means Shakira will duet with Mary J Blige, crooning the complete text of the US constitution. Or that Will.I.Am will jam with Herbie Hancock, on the theme of the Bill of Rights. Together with these musical acts – and the likes of Usher, Garth Brooks, Josh Groban, James Taylor and John Legend – several actors will also appear, offering historical readings. Will Denzel Washington quote from Lincoln, or Queen Latifah from Grover Cleveland? The answer is … maybe.

While critics continue to denounce the role of evangelical pastor Rick Warren at the inaugural ceremony proper, organisers have chosen Episcopal bishop V Gene Robinson – who is gay – to give the concert's invocation.

While normally an event on this scale would be organised over the course of "four or five months", Mischer said, he was only contacted by the committee on 29 December. "We are doing this in record time." Then again, the gig is not exactly a hard sell. Bono, the Boss and country star Garth Brooks "are the ones who usually say no, and for Barack they say yes", Stevens said.

The theme of inclusiveness, which helped to power Obama's electoral machine, is reflected in the concert's performers. Hip-hop, rock, pop, jazz, country and classical music will all feature.

"It is way past the time we should all come together," Garth Brooks insisted in a statement. "I will play with respect to the years president Bush has given this country and to the hope of what president-elect Obama will bring to this country and the world."


Sean Michaels

The GuardianTramp

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