The slogan “Make America Great Again” has been subject to a lot of debate—when, exactly, are we to believe America was greater before? The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial Thursday night offered a few answers. From the looks of it, America was great when Lee Greenwood wrote “Proud to Be an American” in the Reagan ’80s, and maybe again when the song became a theme song for the first Gulf War, under George H.W. Bush. It was great under George W. Bush, too—both pre-9/11 when 3 Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” soundtracked drives to the mall, and post-9/11 when the nation joined in vengeance to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.” The red-jacketed members of the Army Fife and Drum Corp suggested yet another Great time: 1781.
Sam Moore, the “Soul Man” singer of the civil-rights era, was there too, but only to sing “America the Beautiful”—it seems 1967 was Not Great. The Frontmen of Country reprised hits from across their members’ heydays in the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s, yet each of their twangy-melancholic tales of heartland heartache seem, on purpose, out of time. Then there were the lesser-knowns: Utah’s the Piano Guys, inventively defiling a grand piano for a One Direction tune, and DJ Ravi Drums, that friend of yours who badly overestimates how much you want to watch him dominate Rock Band. Both may have built fledgling careers during the Obama era, but this concert marked them as national discoveries of the Trump one.