WASHINGTON, D.C. — For most, the guests of honor included, it was the end of a very long day: the Inaugural Ball, the finish line in what is essentially an 18-hour sprint, a race filled with hurdles like ceremonies and lunches and speeches and motorcades and just about every photo opportunity imaginable.
And yet, Monday night (January 21), nearly 10 hours nearly ten hours after he took the Oath of Office before 800,000 supporters packed into the National Mall, President Barack Obama showed up onstage at the Ball, holding his wife Michelle's hand, waving and smiling as if he'd just emerged from a rather satisfying disco nap.
Of course, he hadn't — Obama and the First Lady had just wrapped a ceremonial dance at the Commander-in-Chief's Ball, the night's other official event (one held a few floors above in Washington's massive convention center) — but, as he and Michelle began slowly swaying to "Let's Stay Together," sung flawlessly by Jennifer Hudson, fatigue seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind ... or the minds of the thousands of attendees who cheered and whooped, held phones aloft and, on more than one occasion, wiped a few tears away from their eyes.
So, yes, it had been an epic day, yet no one seemed to want it to end. Those lucky enough to score an invite to the Ball definitely partied hard, and the acts lined up as entertainment — Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Mana, Fun., Stevie Wonder and Soundgarden, to name just a few — seemed more than willing to match that enthusiasm.
Keys kicked the night off by altering her song "Girl on Fire" to fit the occasion, turning it into a toast to Obama, complete with lines like "Everybody know's that Michelle's his girl/Together they run the world" ... that was followed by a high-energy set from Mexican rock act Mana, and then Paisley, who may have been the secret MVP of the event, thanks as much to his sharp guitar playing as his sharp wit (sample bit of on stage banter: "Our democracy is the envy of the world ... and tonight we celebrate by getting drunk in a convention center!")
Fun., who, just days earlier, had told MTV News they hoped to get "de-pantsed" by the President, instead drew the honor of serving as his de facto opening act, taking the stage roughly 20 minutes before the President was due to appear. And though they were undoubtedly aware of that fact, they didn't seem daunted in the slightest bit ... instead seizing the opportunity to make thousands of people in tuxedos and ball gowns sing along to their hits.
And, truth be told, they actually succeeded, as the opening chords of "Some Nights" were greeted with loud cheers, frontman Nate Ruess feeding off that response, bounding across the stage while Jack Antonoff wheedled away and Andrew Dost pounded on his keys. They got the same feedback from "Carry On," which started somber but surged to a colossal chorus, much to the delight of the folks in attendance, and even a non single, in this case "One Foot" — a whirling, kaleidoscopic tune backed by horns and a sax — got polite applause. Of course, even the stuffiest of suits lost their sh-- to "We Are Young," which had most clapping and singing in unison, Ruess standing on the drum riser, nodding in approval.
Then the President and the First Lady danced their way across the stage, though that certainly didn't signify the end of the evening. Stevie Wonder did his thing, still getting miles out of his pipes and making classics like "Higher Ground," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and, of course, "Superstition" sound as fresh as ever. And then, inexplicably, there was Soundgarden, who were the last band to play, and sent the crowds back into the night with a thudding, thundering set ... the likes of which, we guarantee no Inaugural Ball had ever seen (or heard) before. Hey, there's a reason the kids like Obama.
MTV News is on the ground in D.C. for Inauguration Weekend bringing you the latest from the presidential events, performances and parties right through the final ball tonight. And although the election's over, you can still get involved by heading over to serve.mtv.com.