Hundreds of thousands of people came out to the National Mall on Veteran’s Day to experience The Concert for Valor.
From my vantage point (next to the Hirshhorn Museum), far fewer people than expected braved the perfect weather to witness some of the biggest artists and celebrities honor our veterans.
My guess is the pre-concert buzz of hordes of 800,000 to a million concert goers crashing the Mall scared off most people. The reality was…still a lot of people, but the whole affair turned out orderly, civilized and the city of DC proved to be well prepared. My favorite feature was the ‘family reunification’ station.
The Concert kicked off with Jennifer Hudson singing the National Anthem. Underwhelming start, but a number of performances stand out.
Then the show rotated between 1) celebrities speaking about various organizations supporting veterans and introducing an artist, 2) 2-3 song sets by various artists and 3) a brief recording of a specific veteran’s story narrated by celebrities like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Many of these stories were inspiring and worth watching online if available. Almost all of the veteran’s depicted were in attendance.
John Oliver’s anecdote from a USO tour on why the Air Force has better things…because they are smarter than the Army and Navy…was the funniest segment until he flubbed the word ‘concert’ for ‘cancer’. Jack Black injected some much appreciated levity into an often somber show, introducing Metallica as his band Tenancious D before correcting himself.
On to the music. Overall a subdued mood pervaded many of the 25 songs and 10 artists, with only pockets of energy from the crowd. I have to say it’s difficult for artists in this situation. A typical crowd near front stage are your biggest fans. Instead, most people at the front weren’t even there specifically to see you. Then you only play two or three songs, so there isn’t much time to get in the spirit. All attempts to do sing-a-longs fell flat.
A full set list is below, but highlights included Fortunate Son performed by Dave Grohl, The Zac Brown Band and Bruce Springsteen. Aside from the song’s anti-draft and war sentiment (how many veteran’s are pro-war?), it was probably the second best song of the night.
The song that first got the crowd (near me) going was Chicken Fried by The Zac Brown Band.
Metallica crushed everyone’s eardrums with an everlong set that started with For Whom the Bell Tolls and ended with the best song of the night, Enter Sandman. The crowd was fully dancing to this wall of sound, like no other.
Bruce Springsteen could have been the highlight, but his pared down and subdued renditions of Born in the U.S.A. and Dancing In the Dark were the wrong choice, I think. I don’t mind hearing him perform them that way, but this concert needed the energy that both those songs bring. People were ready to dance after Metallica riled them up.
The final song that really energized the crowd was Rihanna and Eminem’s performance of Monster. The concert ended with Eminem’s set, closing the night with Lose Yourself. His prolific use of F-bombs were glaringly out-of-place in front of thousands of random people, including families, that didn’t come to specifically see him. I don’t mind if he does that in his own show, this wasn’t the time.
Overall, the concert did a fine job of honoring our veterans. It brought awareness to many good causes (see: theconcertforvalor.com) that support them. And it managed to be entertaining at times.
Full Set List