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Biden inauguration: Fireworks light up Washington DC sky as Hollywood A-list turns out to celebrate

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Fireworks to mark the Biden inauguration explode over the Washington Monument with the Marine Corps War Memorial in the foreground, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Arlington, Va.
Fireworks to mark the Biden inauguration explode over the Washington Monument with the Marine Corps War Memorial in the foreground, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Arlington, Va.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar
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Fireworks lit up the sky behind the Washington Monument to mark the end of Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden watched the end of the day’s events from a balcony in the White House on Wednesday night. The Bidens' grandchildren danced and clapped on the balcony.

While the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns in Washington vastly scaled back inaugural events, organizers created a celebratory atmosphere with live and recorded celebrity performances, ending with singer Katy Perry's rendition of "Firework".

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, watched the fireworks from the steps of the Washington Monument after Harris delivered brief remarks.

Earlier, Bruce Springsteen launched the evening's entertainment: “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Harris watching. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.”

Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancor in our land” over the past few years. "But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said.

Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honor of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles.

A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial.

While stars mostly eschewed Trump's inauguration four years ago, the A-list was back for Biden and Harris.

Earlier in the day at the inauguration ceremony, a full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner".

She was followed at Wednesday's ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, who threw a line of Spanish into her medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful".

Country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song.

The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin.

One of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961, which was hosted by Frank Sinatra, and drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities.

Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball.