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Thursday, June 3, 2010

McCartney At The White House

A very colorful and descriptive report from the White House pool reporter Christina Bellantoni who covered last evening's celebration honoring singer Paul McCartney with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

She writes....

Event basics: Sir Paul McCartney was awarded the during a star-studded ceremony in the White House East Room. President Obama and his family sat in the first row, surrounded by politicians and big names in music.

News, sort of: Obama mentioned "difficult time" for the Gulf Coast, saying that his thoughts are with friends in an area "so rich in musical heritage." He said it is "herartbreaking" but said the group in the room is committed to help and see the community "made whole again." He said "Part of what gets us through tough times is music" and that there's always a kernel of ourselves "that sings even when times are hard."

Another bit: At the very close of the event after Obama had left the room, McCartney took the mic again and thanked the Library of Congress again for the award. He then said, "After the last eight years, it's great to have a president who knows what a library is."

Other than that as all color, with highlights being of course the music, McCartney's choice of song "Michelle" and some POTUS-FLOTUS hand-holding.Another highlight, during "Hey Jude" at the finale and for the "Na, na, na, na, na, na, na" chorus, McCartney got everyone, including the entire First Family on the stage. They clapped and everyone sang along as he sat himself at the piano.

I've got most of the songs and performers in the report below, but it was hard to see many of the guests since most of the viewing was done on the screen in the briefing room. Pool was led into East Room about 2/3 into the event for Obama's remarks and one song.

At 7:38 p.m., the president and first lady joined the Obama daughters to sit in the front row. Michelle Obama sat to the president's left, and they frequently whispered to one another.

McCartney entered the room after the president, grabbed a guitar and took the stage, declaring, "Welcome to the White House," and then performing "Got to Get You Into My Life." He wore a blue jacket with no tie. When he finished, he joined the president in the front row and sat to his right. They also chatted back and forth most of the evening.

WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel also was in the front row, toward the right near Stevie Wonder. Also spotted: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Marian Robinson, Sen. Dick Durbin. Will send list of attendees as provided by the White House in second report.

FLOTUS wore a short frock that is a color called "blush" and appeared to be made of satin. The designer is Byron Lars, a male designer who bills himself as making "twisted American classics." The dress had a cowl-necked collar and her belt was adorned with large jewels. As she sat, you could see a little pink petticoat peeking out over her knee.

The First Couple clapped and smiled throughout the evening. Malia Obama also seemed to be enjoying herself, especially when the Jonas Brothers performed "Drive My Car."

Stevie Wonder played "We Can Work It Out" - twice. He stopped half-way through the first time because his harmonica wasn't at the ready. When he played the harmonica solo the second time the crowd clapped and Obama was nodding.

Jerry Seinfeld made a joke about so many prizes, and quipped about the Nobel Prize. He also called McCartney an "unparalleled artist" and said he makes "the most beautiful music I've ever heard." He joked about some of the Beatles lyrics and cracked some jokes about marriage after which the first lady laughed and clapped.

As Lang Lang performed a piano solo "Celebration," the president and first lady held hands.

Elvis Costello offered brief remarks, telling the several hundred gathered there that music "is often an us-against-them proposition." He said that the song he would play, "Penny Lane," is about a place near where his mother came from, and that when "this thing of wonder and beauty came on the radio," his dad, mom and cat "all stood up and took notice."

He talked of the "beautiful way that Paul's songs united us," adding, "thank you, and I love you and thank you for your songs and your friendship."

Big cheers erupted from the audience after the trumpet portion in the song, and Costello gave the player a generous "Sgt. Pepper" shoutout - introducing him as "Matthew Harding of the president's own United States Marine Band."

Dave Grohl told the crowd he's a DC native and has played "every club, every basement, every arena and every stadium." But, he said: "All of that has nothing on Paul: You're definitely my hero. And Mister President, you're definitely my other hero."

He then played "Band on the Run," by McCartney during the Wings era.

Obama nodded his head to the beat, and I've gotta say, Grohl rocked it.

Pool was led in after Grohl as Stevie Wonder and McCartney performed a duet of "Ebony/Ivory." As we were led in we saw there was a bar and some chafing dishes set up in the foyer for what I presume is a post-concert reception.

Obama's remarks will be out via transcript in the morning but he said the United States stole McCartney and singled out Pelosi for praise as being a champion of the arts. He said the Beatles "blew the walls down for everybody else" and "changed everything overnight" by appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show." Obama said McCartney and the Beatles "helped to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation."

They hugged as McCartney came on stage. He held the award as he praised Obama. "Getting this prize would just be good enough, but getting it from THIS president ..." he said, to big cheers. He said that even though there are "lots of really difficult issues" in the United States, "You have billions of us who are rooting for you and we know you're going to come through."

McCartney also thanked the other artists, saying it was "inspiring" to hear their interpretations of his music.

Then he said he would play a song he'd been "Itching to do at the White House," adding, "I hope the president will forgive me." Then launched into a spirited rendition of "Michelle."

At the end of the song he took a bow and your pool had to leave. As we were wrangled out we heard McCartney joke he'd be "the first guy ever to be punched out by a president," then start in on "Eleanor Rigby."

When we got back to the briefing room we saw McCartney joke his daughter Mary once whistled while at the royal ranch. (She was whistling during concert). He then played "Let it be" and "Hey Jude."

The White House provided us cream programs with a yellow tassel and emblazoned with the presidential seal. It listed the program as "Selections by" the following artists:

Corinne Bailey Rae, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl, Herbie Hancock, Emmylou Harris, Faith Hill,  Jonas Brothers, Lang Lang, Jack White.

For the rest of the program: Emmylou Harris performed "For No One," which she admitted is a "sad" song. (It is.)  Jack White performed "Mother Nature's Son." Corinne Bailey Rae sang "Blackbird." Faith Hill performed "Long and Winding Road"

For the record, your pooler's favorite McCartney-sung Beatles song is "Paperback Writer."

Obama, last year, presented the same award to Stevie Wonder.

Some background from the White House: The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.

And details on the broadcast from the Library of Congress: The program, to be taped by WETA Washington, D.C., as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series, will air on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesday, July 28, 2010, at 8 p.m. EDT (check local listings) as “Paul McCartney: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song In Performance at the White House.”

End

I'd like to add one other piece of info that wasn't mentioned.  McCartney gave a few words of encouragement to President Obama, who began his remarks with those in New Orleans in mind.

"You have billions of us who are rooting for you and we know you are going to come through."

Watch the video here.

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