President and Mrs. Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Kennedy Center Opera House, after having just hosted the traditional White House reception for the honorees. Also being honored were Bruce Springsteen, opera singerGrace Bumbry, actor Robert De Niroand producer Mel Brooks.
Among the many performers and presenters are Sting (who performs Springsteen’s song “The Rising” in honor of the rocker), Harry Connick, Jr., Aretha Franklin, John Mellencamp, Jennifer Nettles, Edward Norton, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep and Eddie Vedder.
With this year’s show, you can almost reach out and touch the near future — when Streep will get hers, when Stewart will get his. It was inevitable; we’ve moved into another era.
I’m sure the people who put on the Kennedy Center Honors (starting with the show’s longtime producer, George Stevens Jr.) can supply you with all sorts of examples of how the event has evolved and improved of late. But really nothing about the show has changed.
I might have once been among those who would have argued for a Kennedy Center Honors overhaul. But watching this year’s show, and thinking about all the monumental deaths of famous performers in 2009, I say keep it exactly the way it is, with its aerial shots from the Potomac, Plavix commercials, stuffy nature and all. Too much else has already changed.