Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

Concert For Valor on the National Mall (11/11/14)

Concert for Valor

Events on the National Mall are supposed to embody all things America: democracy, patriotism, unity. In reality, they expose the country’s true underbelly: bureaucracy, apathy and a love of anything free. Sadly, the Concert for Valor on a surprisingly balmy Veterans Day was no different. Despite its lofty goal to “honor the courage and sacrifice of veterans and their families,” the show ended up being more about what didn’t happen than what happened.

To start, there wasn’t a lot of honoring being done by the crowd. Like a majority of attendees, I was drawn to the concert more out of an interest in the entertainment aspect than saluting our troops. In spite of the inspirational profiles of wounded warriors that played throughout the show, there was a surprising lack of emotional sentiment in the air (at least where I was sitting). Not even the rotating cast of celebrity MCs could properly rouse the crowd (Jamie Foxx was particularly lame). Even the palpable energy of the shambolic Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert “Rally to Restore Sanity” was lacking.

The scattered musical guests, ranging from a worthless opening performance by British artist Jessie J to a remarkably subdued acoustic set from Bruce Springsteen, did little to help with the sagging levels of inspiration. There were no surprises, no spontaneity (save for a couple of F-bombs dropped by closing act Eminem) and hardly any patriotic displays, other than maybe Jennifer Hudson singing the Star Spangled Banner. Clearly there were strict orders not to rock the boat.

It was unclear if the goal of the concert was to honor veterans or merely entertain them (Rihanna? The Black Keys?) Even potential moments of controversy were neutered. Springsteen’s rendition of the decidedly anti-war (and possibly anti-American) “Born in the U.S.A.” was so quiet and subdued that it almost seemed apologetic. Meanwhile, Metallica, a band not known for their flag-waving sentiments, chose to play their best known (though certainly not best) anti-war anthem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” rather than take the opportunity to make a truly overt political statement. The Zac Brown Band’s performance (along with Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen) of Credence Clearwater Revival’s anti-military screed “Fortunate Son” was enthusiastically received by everyone, including (ironically) the thousands of service members gathered at the east end of the Mall.

The concert brought to light awareness of a number of veterans’ issues and probably raised some money for them. But at the price of subtle censorship and, dare I say it, boredom. God bless America. I guess.

Set Lists:

JENNIFER HUDSON

  1. The Star-Spangled Banner

JESSIE J

  1. Titanium (David Guetta cover ft Jennifer Hudson)
  2. Bang Bang

DAVE GROHL

  1. My Hero (Foo Fighters song)
  2. Everlong (Foo Fighters song)

ZAC BROWN BAND

  1. Yankee Doodle (Violin Solo by Jimmy De Martini)
  2. Free (with America the Beautiful)
  3. God Bless the USA (Lee Greenwood cover)
  4. Chicken Fried
  5. Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover ft Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl)

BLACK KEYS

  1. Howlin’ for You
  2. Fever
  3. Lonely Boy

CARRIE UNDERWOOD

  1. See You Again
  2. Something in the Water
  3. Before He Cheats

METALLICA

  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. Enter Sandman

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

  1. The Promised Land
  2. Born in the U.S.A.
  3. Dancing in the Dark

RIHANNA

  1. Diamonds
  2. Stay
  3. The Monster (with Eminem)

EMINEM

  1. Guts Over Fear
  2. Not Afraid
  3. Lose Yourself
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