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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The concert wrap-up

OSLO, Dec. 11, 11:25P, local time

President Obama made the right pick in inviting Esperanza Spalding to play at his concert. The girl is so gifted it's sick. And the fact that she, too, comes from mixed racial/ethnic heritage may also have some affinity for him.

Never jammed too much to Toby Keith before, but I did appreciate his music. Great 10-piece band, and touching lyrics. That has always been the thing with good country. If the lyrics are right, you will have a hit. And country artists tend to be more lyric driven, at least in comparison to modern R&B! And Will Smith made a funny, yet truthful crack: while President Obama may have had to walk tightropes concerning his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Toby Keith has a finer one to walk, as a Southern country star who's a Democrat! The horror!

Still, his tribute song to Wayman Tisdale, "Cryin' for Me," was unexpectedly touching.

Amadou & Mariam brought the rhythms of the continent to the crowd, and Luis Fonsi kicked it up, Latin style. There was appreciative applause, but not as wildly felt as when Keith wrapped up his set. The way the crowd responded to him, I was going to start checking folks for lassos and chaps.

Now take the following comments to heart. Disregard any bias from the inner fangirl that's still bouncing off the walls when I say Donna Summer truly tore it up! Headlining acts always go last, and also suffer the showtime overrun. It was to be expected with nine preceding acts ahead of her. She cut down her playlist, omitting favorites such as "MacArthur Park," "Smile," and "No More Tears" and powered up "She Works Hard for the Money" with a "Bad Girls/Hot Stuff" medley. She wound it down with "Last Dance," starting soft and slow, upping the tempo, winding it back down, then hitting crescendo.

Norwegians who started off stiff, who couldn't find their hips or their bootys when the night started were dancing all over the place by the time she hit her last note. She looked great and sounded even better. Not as much shimmy as she had back in the Queen of Disco days. But for an almost 61-year-old hot mama, she was indeed smoking! And she demonstrated the kind of showmanship, rapport with the audience, that a class act displays -- even if deep down you're mad that your songs got cut.

And while all of this was great entertainment and celebration, the magic moment was the finale. Willow and Jaden Smith kicked off the opening lines of MJ's "Man in the Mirror." And they were joined by everyone who had performed that evening.

I felt the tears pushing forward.

Look at where we are. Look at who we are. Folks who came from not much, who have gone on to touch the heart of the world, transform its views of itself in the process. Jada Pinkett. Will Smith. Esperanza Spalding. Toby Keith. Wyclef Jean. Donna Summer.Michelle Obama. Barack Obama.

All of them, living what has long been hailed as the American Dream, of coming from little and achieving much. And to end a program dedicated to peace and fellowship among nations with MJ, well it was stirring on multiple levels. And yes, my mascara fell victim tonight, if only a little.

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