Before Katy Perry seemingly spent the nation's entire fireworks budget in one explosive performance, Tom Hanks ushered America through a musical and multicultural moving portrait of unity and hope through unprecedented adversity.
There is no one more important at times of crisis than America's Dad, and luckily Tom Hanks was available to help steer the nation through its first ever Covid-friendly virtual inauguration ball.
There were no elaborate gowns or ballrooms, but there was a sense of community like we've never seen before at these types of events, and Americans were clearly resonating with all that representation.
With performances from artists as varied as Bruce Springsteen and Katy Perry to John Legend, Ozuna, Tyler Hubbard, Black Pumas, Tim McGraw, Luis Fonsi, Foo Fighters, Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake -- not to mention a whole slew of Broadway stars, this "ball" looked and felt more American than perhaps any that's come before it.
Add to that moving packages throughout the night to look at special Americans who've made a difference in their communities during economic challenges and on the front lines during the ongoing pandemic, and President Biden was right when he said that he and Vice President Harris were determined to make this event not about them, but about you, the American people.
"As I said earlier today, we have learned again that democracy is precious," the president said in his brief remarks. "Because of you, Democracy has prevailed. That’s why Jill and I, Kamala and Doug, wanted to make sure our inauguration was not about us but about you, the American people."
He then spoke about the need to seek out "the most elusive thing in a democracy, unity."
"America’s story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us," he said. "On we the people. That’s the task before us, the only way we’ll get through the darkness around us."
In sharing the stories of ordinary Americans throughout the broadcast, Biden said that it is these people, their stories that inspire him.
"Stories of ordinary Americans who do extraordinary things," he said. "That’s how we’ll celebrate America, and respect and represent America in our time in office. An America built of decency and dignity, of love and healing, of greatness and goodness, of possibilities. This is the story that inspires us and guides us, unites us today and always."
Harris echoed the sentiments, saying that it is the drive and perseverance of Americans that will help carry us through such challenging times. "In many ways, this moment embodies our character as a nation," she said. "It demonstrates who we are."
"Even in dark times, we not only dream, we do," she continued. "We not only see what has been, we see what can be. We shoot for the moon, and then we plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless, and ambitious. We are undaunted in our belief that we shall overcome; that we will rise up. This is American aspiration."
It was an evening filled with touching testimonials and moving performances, including front-line medical workers who joined Demi Lovato on "Lovely Day." And it was quickly clear that America was tuning in and fully engaged.
"Celebrating America" was represented all throughout Twitter's trending topics, even beyond the show's initial broadcast, as fans remarked on everything from the powerful memorial to those lost in the pandemic to their thoughts Jon Bon Jovi tackling The Beatles ... let's just say some moments were better received than others.
You can check out what celebrities and fans were talking about and all the "Celebrating America" moments that went viral below.
We're sure Jon Bon Jovi meant well and put his all into that cover of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," but America was just as quickly ready for him to put it away. Admittedly, it wasn't the best cover we've ever heard.
But while the Bon Jovi frontman didn't earn many raves for his vocal prowess, with more than one saying the performance reminded them of a prescription drug commercial, he does still have has fans who appreciate just how damned handsome he still is!
This Bon Jovi Beatles cover could be the first articles of impeachment against Biden.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Twitter was absolutely blown away by cellist Yo-Yo Ma's masterful exploration of "Amazing Grace." It's a testament to his skill and talent that he was able to hold them mesmerized with a single instrument.
As his little way of giving back, Ma has been performing virtual concerts throughout the pandemic. "In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort," he said with the first of his "Songs of Comfort" series on Instagram back in March of last year.
Tonight, he was able to bring that comfort to perhaps his biggest audience yet, and they were definitely here for it!
One performer had people buzzing with anticipation because it's becoming increasingly rare that they get a chance to see him share what first made him famous -- other than his adorable face. Justin Timberlake performed alongside Ant Clemons on "Better Days" and he had people feeling good that those really were just ahead.
It was the atmosphere of unity that came from seeing all of their favorite people embracing this inauguration day in a way that definitely were not four years ago -- that was not nearly as star-studded an event -- but it was also just a chance to see JT in his element and singing again.
As expected, he was effortless as if he never stepped away from this side of his artistry to dabble in things like acting and being a husband and father. It wasn't a full concert, though there were some jokes that he was the real star of the night, but it was enough ... for now.
Most people found it not only touching but wholly appropriate that it was Sarah Fuller who introduced Vice President Kamala Harris before her remarks. After all, both women are trailblazers breaking glass ceilings like they're made of plastic.
Fuller became the first woman to play in a football game for a Power Five conference team when she kicked off for the Vanderbilt Commodores in November 2020. The next month, she was the first to score a point when she kicked in an extra point.
It was clear that Fuller -- who'd returned to the football field at Vanderbilt to deliver her remarks -- was just as honored to be introducing Harris as most Americans seemed honored to have her a part of the celebration.
Incredibly awesome that Sarah Fuller got to introduce Vice President Kamala Harris
While most artists were offering classics from their library of songs, or covers of even greater all-time classics, Tyler Hubbard and Tim McGraw certainly got everyone's attention with their incredibly timely new song, "Undivided."
The track speaks directly about what's going on right now in America, about the political, economic, cultural and racial divides that threaten to tear about the democracy.
It's not a song from ages past that resonates with what's going on today, it was written for today and about today and America was feeling it. It wasn't even the artists they got trending on Twitter, it was the song itself, a statement to its power.
It was even more poignant that it came after a Spanish-language musical "Pass the Mic" between DJ Cassidy, Ozuna and Luis Fonsi. These two styles of music represent the breadth and diversity of American artistry and Americans in general, and it was beautiful to see them not only together in the same show, but effectively back-to-back.
Representing yet another vastly different demographic and form of musical expression, a whole slew of Broadway stars came together to sing the "Rent" anthem "Seasons of Love."
This was a case of the song being written for a vastly different time and issue -- AIDS in the '80s and '90s -- and yet finding new resonance and meaning amid the latest virus to ravage this country, and be let down by a tepid or absent federal response.
It was a powerful performance that was both empowering and heartbreaking, leaving social media to pick up the ashes of their mixed emotions.
I burst into tears, sobbing, during the #SeasonsOfLove medley, mostly because I thought of Larson, who, having written in the shadow of the plague of HIV, could likely never have imagined losing 400,000 lives in one year amid yet another viral pandemic.
Katy Perry knocked it out of the park with her empowerment anthem "Firework," but by the first chorus she was already being overshadowed by the beginnings of what emerged as an incredible -- and even that word isn't quite enough -- fireworks display.
To say it lit up the night sky in Washington DC is probably to downplay it, as we imagine the flashes were seen in Australia.
Twitter was absolutely gobsmacked by the awesome sight, as were Vice President Harris and her husband, Doug, as well as President Biden and the first lady, who took it in from the balcony at the White House.
Hilariously, the explosions that surrounded the Washington Monument at the climax of Perry's closing number were enough to get the monument itself trending, with one user joking that it "was holding onto its wig for dear life."
Growing up in DC, I have seen my share of fireworks over monuments & federal buildings. But I have literally never seen anything like this in my life.