Besides, perhaps, ‘A Summer Celebration Of Southern Rail’ and ‘The Martin Shkreli Wants More Money Benefit Concert’, there’s no event on earth less likely to draw a glittering line-up of A-list performers than Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Let’s face it, any act performing to celebrate the ascendence of the climate-change denying demagogue wouldn’t just be off Bill Hicks’ cultural roll-call, all knowledge and memory of them should be wiped from history by sealing them in a shipping container along with all of their master tapes and burying them deep beneath the Mojave desert. Where, ironically, they’re more likely than the rest of us to survive the coming apocalypse.
So whereas Obama appeared to rope in Beyonce, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder in five minutes on WhatsApp, with a fortnight to go Trump has so far only confirmed that 16-year-old America’s Got Talent contestant Jackie Evancho – not even the winner – will be singing the Star Spangled Banner, the equivalent of Theresa May hiring Rylan to weep with joy in a ‘Red, White And Blue Brexit’ t-shirt. Worse still, the line-up for Trump’s $350-a-ticket pre-inauguration All American Ball includes Nashville singer/songwriter Beau Davidson, cover band The Reagan Years who only perform songs released during Reagan’s 80’s term, and “the Mid-Atlantic’s hottest Party Band!” The Mixx. Acts, in other words, who don’t care that the gig has got ‘career suicide’ written all over it since they don’t have much of a career to kill off.
Meanwhile, the list of acts who have turned down the chance to perform rather than kick their credibility off a cliff after Kanye’s grows longer by the day. Here’s the list so far.
As a sign of the level of competence we should come to expect from the Trump administration, a member of his team announced that Elton John would be performing in a BBC interview, only for Elto’s reps to deny the claim instantly. “There is no truth in this at all,” they said, possibly launching the era of post-truth gigs. When asked about Trump using ‘Tiny Dancer’ during his campaigning, John replied: ” I’m not a Republican in a million years. Why not ask Ted fucking Nugent? Or one of those fucking country stars? They’ll do it for you.” In other words, Drumpf, go whistle.
Rumours circulated that Vegas hotelier and Trump pal Steve Wynn had promised he could secure Celine Dion for the inauguration, since she has a Vegas residency. All involved have since denied the whole thing and Celine is a definite ‘washing my hair that night’.
Diehard conservative and Trump supporter Gene Simmons seemed a shoo-in, but when asked by TMZ if Kiss were due to perform he said no, adding “that’s not to say they didn’t ask”. And thinking about it, it would’ve been fitting to swear Trump in while a bunch of old men dribbling blood play ‘Psycho Circus’ and shoot rockets all over the shop.
“It’s all about serving,” country singer Brooks said when asked if he’s sing at the inauguration, as if playing soporific C&W cheese was the same as parachuting into Iraq with a flamethrower on your back. He’s since turned down an offer though, presumably having finally seen a downside to mindless subservience.
Arguably the luckiest singer in the world, Neil had the unlikely honour of being turned down by Trump (alongside classical singer Andrea Boccelli). Neil claimed he was promised a slot during Trump’s campaign, but was “uninvited” once Trump had won. A bit like those blokes being annoyed they lost their Titanic tickets to Leonardo Di Caprio in a poker game.
Having even failed to secure David Foster, the Whitney and Celine producer that nobody’s really heard of, as time went on the Trump team began getting desperate, and opened up the budget to secure “top-tier” talent whatever the cost. There were even reports that bookers were being offered ambassadorships if they could pull in singers as big as Timberlake. Senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway even pleaded for Timberlake to “call me!” on national TV, but the call never came…
Likewise, Perry was among the team’s high-end hit list, but hardly a likely target since she was wholeheartedly in Team Hillary during the election.
And Mars was another of the A listers who shunned the Trump team’s shady “pay anything” tactic.
Online, the likes of Ice T and The Dixie Chicks have comically ruled themselves out. Even wannabe-Freddie Adam Lambert wouldn’t accept Trump’s poisoned dollar. “I don’t think I would take the money on that one,” he told the BBC. “I don’t think I’d be endorsing that. They might struggle.” Good lad.
Several marching bands that usually play at Presidential inaugurations have declined to appear this time, and Radio City Music Hall’s iconic high-kicking dance troupe The Rockettes are in turmoil over their planned performance. Some members don’t want to perform, citing political differences and some claiming they’d feel uncomfortable dancing near an alleged sex pest in their costumes. Other members argue that the troupe should pull together for the sake of national unity, even though some dancers have claimed to have been performing with “heavy hearts” and in tears since the event was booked. Saturday Night Live alumni Rachel Dratch came up with an inventive way for anti-Trump Rockettes to make a stand, though. ‘If #Rockettesare forced to perform at Inauguration they shouldn’t wax, so kick line exposes overgrowth of full 1970’s-style bushes’, she Tweeted.
Ferguson initially responded to an offer to play by saying she’d be happy to as long as she could sing Billie Holliday’s classic anti-racism lament ‘Strange Fruit’ which opened up the option for the whole thing to turn into a protest event. How about REM signing up only to play ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’, and leaving out the ‘feeling fine’ bit. Or Fun Boy Three reforming to play ‘The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)’? She has since declined altogether
Among those from whom Trump is still awaiting a reply are Aretha Franklin and The Beach Boys, and even the godawful pro-Trump girlband The Trumpettes are rumoured to be wary of confirming. Oh, but Matt Healy from The 1975 has offered his services: “I’ll do it if they give me cash up front. Then watch what would happen. It would be a riot.”