This post was written by Hatchet reporter Samuel Pfister.
Crowds decked out in American flag apparel set up on the National Mall as early as 6 a.m. Tuesday for the evening’s free Concert for Valor, which drew an estimated 800,000 people to salute U.S. veterans.
The crowd took over the National Mall, from the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument, awaiting an all-star lineup of performers and celebrities from Metallica to Carrie Underwood and even “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston.
Jumbotrons lined the Mall for viewers too far from the stage – those who didn’t beat the early morning rush were stationed nearly a mile away from the action.
The Veterans Day show kicked off at 7 p.m. with Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of the National Anthem, followed by a cover version of David Guetta’s “Titanium,” which Hudson performed as a duet with pop singer Jessie J.
Other performances included a rock and roll set by David Grohl of the Foo Fighters. Country/folk group the Zac Brown Band was joined by rock icon Bruce Springsteen to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival’s hit “Fortunate Son.”
When Metallica took the stage to play a charged version of “Enter Sandman,” Gulf War veteran Harrison Brown recalled listening to the band while serving in the war.
“I listened to Metallica when I was fighting in Iraq. That’s what got me through the day,” he said. “Now instead of me cheering on at a Metallica concert, Jimmy Hetfield was here cheering me on.”
The Black Keys took the stage to perform tracks like “Fever” and “Lonely Boy.” Lead vocalist Dan Auerbach danced around stage, livening the crowd with his masterful guitar solos.
Between pop hits, Springsteen returned to play acoustic tracks, including a delta-blues, slide-guitar style performance of “Born in the U.S.A.”
The night’s performances were capped off with crowd favorites Rihanna and Eminem, who performed duets like “Monster.” The final song of the night was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Each artist paid tribute to America’s veterans, such as Grohl, who said, “We’ve got a lot of heroes here tonight,” before playing an acoustic version of the Foo Fighter’s “My Hero.”
Between each act, celebrities including Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey presented short videos that offered a look into the lives of veterans like David Oclander, a retired Army veteran who now serves as a teacher and said he’s using his military experience to help students become leaders.
Powerful performances by the nation’s music stars dominated the night, but a sense of patriotism was abuzz, as the crowds dispersed singing the National Anthem.