How to watch one of the weirdest presidential inaugurations in U.S. history
After an election that we may never truly escape, a new president’s finally dropping on Wednesday. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to be sworn in the old-fashioned way, with unprecedented pandemic and security measures in place. No matter how the Capitol siege has tarnished cries for unity and bipartisanship, that was the message of the Biden campaign, and that’s going to be the message of his inauguration: “America United.”
While this inauguration carries the added tension in anticipating something wild happening, the Biden team has amassed the sort of high-profile performers you’d come to expect from the Obama-era inaugurations. These next four years stand to be a cultural reset in many ways, but I don’t think anyone expected a reunited New Radicals being a part of it. Below, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about Wednesday’s inauguration performances.
So when is the main event getting started?
Joe Biden is set to arrive at the Capitol at 11 a.m., with the program officially starting at 11:15. Howard University’s Showtime Marching Band is booked to escort Kamala Harris throughout the inauguration. Although it’s the more official portion of the day — with the pledge of allegiance, invocation, and poetry reading from the youngest person to ever do so at the inauguration — there’s still some star wattage before Biden is sworn in around noontime. Lady Gaga, who joined Biden in Pennsylvania on the night before election day, is tapped to sing the National Anthem, with Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks performing before the swearing-in.
What performances can I expect later on in the day?
Well, besides the Gaga, Brooks, and J. Lo performances it’s going to be a weird assembly of guests. After Biden and Harris are sworn in, there’s going to be a virtual “Parade Across America,” to cut down on the already heightened risk of staging an in-person inauguration. The lineup is a real wild card — everyone from Jon Stewart to TikTok longboarder Nathan Apodaca are set to appear virtually. The music will continue into the afternoon with an all-star medley featuring Earth Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers, Andra Day, and more. But far and away the most head-spinning musical guest, a reunited New Radicals, comes with a touching backstory of Beau Biden turning to “You Get What You Give” during his battle with cancer.
But haven’t some performances already happened?
That’s right. Over the weekend, there was the virtual “We the People” pre-inauguration concert, featuring Cher, Will.i.am, Barbara Streisand, and more. Fall Out Boy, the band who partly owes its existence to Joe Biden, performed “Centuries” remotely. I didn’t personally tune into this one at all, but it sounded just a tick below Billy Porter and Stephen Stills’s DNC “For What It’s Worth” cover on the oddness scale.
Okay, so when are the big names playing?
Most of the big stars won’t be anywhere near Washington, D.C., instead participating in the remote “Celebrating America” show. Starting at 8:30 p.m. EST, the Tom Hanks-hosted special will bring some of the biggest names in pop music back to the presidential spotlight. Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more will be patching in their performances from across America. Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington will also be on hand to introduce pre-taped segments, that sound of a piece of the remote DNC setup. This special is set to air on most major networks — CBS, ABC, and NBC currently list “Celebrating America” on Wednesday night’s schedule, along with PBS. As for FOX, it’s following up the stunning Elizabeth Smart reveal on The Masked Dancer with its regularly scheduled Wednesday programming: more Masked Dancer and Name That Tune.
Here's the CBS News stream below: