6 Highlights From Donald Trump's 2017 Inaugural Balls

Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance at the Freedom Ball on Jan. 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. 

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday (Jan. 20). Following the daytime festivities in Washington, D.C., the families of the new president and vice president made their way to a trio of official inaugural balls around town. 

Trump’s inability to convince big name acts to perform for his inauguration -- both at Thursday’s “Make America Great Again” celebration and Friday’s events -- has followed him throughout the inauguration’s cycle. In 2013, Barack Obama’s second inauguration featured a national anthem from Beyonce, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee” sung by Kelly Clarkson, presidential ball performances from the likes of Alicia Keys and Brad Paisley, and a Lady Gaga-Tony Bennett private set for White House staff.

In contrast, Trump’s inauguration and subsequent events featured few well known stars and leaned heavily on small-scale novelty acts and a large amount of music that’s over 50 years old. In a recent interview Trump assured “the biggest celebrities in the world” would be attending; in the same breath, he said he didn’t want them.

After the daytime ceremonies, Trump attended three inaugural D.C. balls: the Freedom Ball, the Liberty Ball and a final one titled A Salute to Our Armed Services. The first two (held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center) were attended by supporting donors and ticket purchasers; the latter (held at the National Building Museum) was filled with members of the United States military past and present, including Medal of Honor recipients.

Here’s our rundown of the big events at all three:

1. This Is Trump's Fight Song?

Throughout the election season, and especially during the Democratic Convention, Hillary Clinton tried to make Rachel Platten’s 2015 single “Fight Song” into an anthem for her campaign. In a bit of possible trolling, the Piano Guys (a Utah-based, YouTube-popularized novelty quartet) brought “Fight Song” into their cover song routine. This was also where the Rockettes -- some of which made headlines for not wanting to perform for Trump -- also took the stage. While the Piano Guys performed, 18 Rockettes, dressed in gold-sequined outfits, kicked in unison behind them.

2. Make Traditional Irish Dancing Great Again

Earlier this month, a Trump spokesperson told CNN that Kanye West, despite being a friend of the new president, would not be invited to play at the inauguration because it was to be a "typically and traditionally American event.” Well, apparently the Irish stylings of Riverdance and Feet of Flames fit the bill where Chicago-bred hip-hop did not. Dancer-choreographer Michael Flatley, the star of these productions and more, hit the D.C. stage with a team of backing dancers to perform a few familiar numbers.

3. Sam Moore Performs “Soul Man”

One of the later entrants to the inauguration schedule was 81-year-old Sam Moore, one half of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame duo Sam & Dave (Dave Prater died in 1988). Backed by a sizable orchestra and other singers, Moore attempted to rev up the crowd with -- what else -- his signature 1967 song, “Soul Man.” In the very beginning he implored guests to put away their phones; in the bridge, he asked again, before trying to get a, “Let me hear you say yes” call-and-response going. The best the crowd could muster was some robotic clapping along.

4. Donald and Melania Trump Dance to Sinatra 

After entertainers built anticipation at the various balls, Trump and his wife Melania finally showed up around 9:30 p.m. ET. At each one they attended, their ceremonial first dance was to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence. Tim Rushlow & His Band (led by the titular Little Texas country singer) leaned on other old timey, jazz band standards throughout the night, including “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Luck Be A Lady” and “I Got Rhythm.” 

5. Trump’s Addresses His Twitter Habits (They’re Not Going Anywhere)

The same day the official Presidential Twitter account switched from Obama to Trump, Donald referenced the future of his personal @realDonaldTrump account. “Should I keep the Twitter going?” he asked unprovoked. The answer was of course yes, as he called it “a way of bypassing dishonest media.”

6. Okay, This Sounded Great

Fourteen-year-old vocalist Lexi Mae Walker (a viral star who has played live events in recent years thanks to a YouTube cover of "Let It Go") appeared towards the end of the proceedings to deliver a masterful rendition of Lee Ann Womack’s classic, “I Hope You Dance.” Don’t let some hellbent heart leave you bitter, America.

President Donald Trump Inauguration


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