This is from a pool report I just filed:
As the thousands inside the cavernous ballroom waited for the Obama’s to arrive, artist Nick Cannon warmed the crowd up with two turntables and a microphone, exclaiming repeatedly, “It’s a new day!”
“This is the hottest ball in DC,” Mr. Cannon said.
Will.i.am. Began the performances, opening a live nationally televised broadcast with the words, “Happy new day America.”
Queen Latifah lauded Mr. Obama for opening an inaugural ball to the public for the first time, and reminded the crowd that parties around the world were being linked with their gathering over the internet.
A large TV screen in one corner showed some of those remotely linked parties, from San Francisco, Boca Raton, Ramstein US Air Force Base in Germany, and Spokane, WA.
Entertainers Mary J. Blige, Maroon 5 and Mariah Carey also performed before the Obamas arrived. Miss Blige and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine electrified the crowd, with an enormous digital background showing neon lightning bolts behind Maroon 5.
Mrs. Carey dedicated her ballad, “Hero.,” to Mr. Obama.
At 8:30, Denzel Washington introduced Mr. and Mrs. Obama and they entered the hall to ear-splitting screams while “Hail to the Chief” boomed out from the president’s Marine band.
Mr. Obama wore a tux with a white bow-tie, while Mrs. Obama wore a stunning white sequined dress with one strap over her left shoulder.
Mr. Obama made very brief remarks, starting with, “How good looking is my wife?” More screams.
“I want to thank all of you, not merely for helping me get elected, but I want to thank each and every one of you and all the people who are watching tonight for what you do to make this country better,” he said.
“We are neighborhood people,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the reason they chose to highlight this ball first. “This campaign was organized neighborhood by neighborhood.”
He said this ball “captured best the spirit of this campaign.”
He said his administration would need everyone in the coming years, and said, “In four years, who knows?”
Mr. and Mrs. Obama then danced their first dance while Beyonce Knowles sang Etta James’ classic tune, “At Last.”
He and the first lady apeared to be sharing something of an intimate moment amidst all the flash bulbs and screams. And they looked good, dancing in rhthym
“You could tell that’s a black president from the way he was moving,” said Jamie Foxx, following the dance.
An ensemble of singers then sang “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” while the Obamas remained onstage and danced and greeted the invited guests from the train, who came out on stage with them.
Following that song, Mr. Obama grabbed a mic and tapped it, walking around the stage looking for sound. When they turned it on, he said, “Everybody we have nine more balls to go to,” explaining why he and the first lady had to leave. The crowd groaned.
“But Michelle and I both want to say thanks. Thanks for this honor. Thanks for this privilege. And remember what we said during the campaign: Yes we can. Yes we will. As long as we all are working together.”
The crowd broke into a brief chant of “USA” as they left. They were there for 17 minutes.
Alas, the pool left before the Jay-Z performance. But not bad for a pool assignment.
-Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times