WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s inaugural welcome concert next week will feature country star Toby Keith, singer Jennifer Holliday and actor Jon Voight, organizers announced Friday.
The names add some celebrity flavor to an inaugural lineup that so far has been noticeably short on star power, with organizers insisting that Trump himself is the celebrity in chief for this inaugural.
Also performing at Thursday’s “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration:” southern rockers 3 Doors Down, The Piano Guys, Lee Greenwood, DJ RaviDrums and The Frontmen of Country, featuring Tim Rushlow, Larry Stewart and Richie McDonald.
“We’re going to do something incredible,” Trump said in a tweeted video promoting the concert. “That’s going to be really fantastic.”
Trump himself also will speak at the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which organizers said “will serve as a tribute to one of our greatest attributes, the peaceful transition of partisan power.”
Several prominent entertainers have declined to perform at the Trump inaugural, citing disagreement with the president-elect’s agenda and style.
Holliday, who supported Hillary Clinton in the election, cast her decision to participate not as a political statement but as a way to welcome the American people to an event that should be about unifying the country. She said she has sung for both Republican and Democratic presidents, and that may be why Trump’s team reached out to her, joking that they couldn’t get an “A-lister, so they went to the bottom of the list.”
“I didn’t see it as singing for Trump; I saw it as singing for the people on the mall,” she said in an interview.
Holliday, best known for her Tony-winning role in “Dreamgirls” on Broadway, faced an immediate and angry backlash to her decision from critics urging a boycott of her music, calling her an “Uncle Tom,” saying her career was over and even suggesting she take her own life.
“It just really made my heart drop to my feet,” Holliday said. “How could I have this much hate spewing at me, and I haven’t even done anything? I guess it’s not like those old days when political views were your own and you had freedom of speech. … We live in a different time now and a decision to go and do something for America is not so clear-cut anymore.”
The celebrity wattage for Trump’s inaugural festivities doesn’t rival that of Barack Obama’s inaugurations, which attracted top names including Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Hudson, among others. But Trump has insisted that’s how he wants it, saying the swearing-in festivities should be about the people not the elites.
Greenwood, whose signature song is “God Bless the U.S.A.,” has performed for past GOP presidential inaugurals. Voight has been a vocal Trump supporter.
Those set to perform at Trump’s Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony include singer Jackie Evancho, the Radio City Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Evancho, who has caught some criticism for agreeing to perform at the inaugural, said she hoped her performance will “bring people together.”
“I hope to just kind of make everyone forget about rivals and politics for a second and just think about America and the pretty song that I’m singing,” Evancho said in an interview to air Sunday on “CBS This Morning.”
The 16-year-old singer rejected the idea she was tacitly accepting Trump’s agenda or intolerance for LGBT rights by agreeing to perform. Her sister, Juliet Evancho, was born Jacob and is transgender.
Juliet Evancho told CBS that her sister was “singing for our country and it’s an honor for her to be singing in front of so many people.”
“I feel that’s really where I look at it,” Juliet said. “And that’s where I’m going to leave it right now.”
Singer Paul Anka, meanwhile, told TMZ he’d been in talks with the Trump team about singing “My Way” for the new president at an inaugural ball, with lyrics tailored to Trump, but that he had to scrap the plan because of family commitments. Anka, 75, said “My Way” was Trump’s favorite song.
Thursday’s “welcome celebration” is a free concert that also will feature fireworks and military bands. It will be available for live broadcast.
Prior to that concert, a separate “Voices of the People” program at the Lincoln Memorial will feature groups from around the country that applied to take part in the inauguration, such as high school bands, Cub Scouts, local choirs and pipe and drum groups.