Happy Independence Day, all!

In honor of the occasion, PBS always broadcasts A Capitol Fourth, a free outdoor concert on the west side of the Capitol Building (as they say, check your local listings). Thousands of people attend each year for a fun evening of music and dance from A-list talent. Well, actually, A-, B-, and C-list talent, as well as up-and-coming newbies. As was pointed out, all sacrificed whatever else they might have been doing on the Fourth just to perform for their country.

One little known fact about these A Capitol Fourth productions is that they do a full dress rehearsal the night before, and those are open to the public. So you can see the same performers and the same performances, with a smaller crowd. You also get to see a bit of the sausage-making and technical glitches that don't happen on the live show.

We've gone to the dress rehearsals a time or two in the past, and went last night. Our host was the affable John Stamos, and the music lineup included The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Trace Adkins, Yolanda Adams, The Blues Brothers, Sam Moore of Sam and Dave, Kellie Pickler and somebody who won The Voice and somebody else who won America's Got Talent, as well as the National Symphony Orchestra and military bands.

There seemed to be more technical glitches to be fixed this time than in other times we've gone. At one point, after Trace Adkins had performed and Stamos was introducing the next act, he stopped dead and said, "Hey, guys, we've got to clear this monitor ... I can't read the TelePrompTer."  It took a few moments, and they started up again, asking the audience to cheer for Trace Adkins as if he had just stopped singing and Stamos re-read his introduction. 

It happened again when he brought out R2-D2 and C-3PO, to introduce a medley of Star Wars music for its 40th anniversary. Something was off in his banter with the droids, and then when the orchestra played, they sounded, quite frankly, awful. I mean, they sounded like not every musician was reading the same sheet music. So R2-D2 and C-3PO were brought out again, and Stamos did the exact same banter.

Then there was Yolanda Adams, who sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" -- beautifully, of course, because she's Yolanda Adams and she's awesome -- and there's a moment where she spontaneously ad-libbed to the audience, "Now for this part, I want you to help me out" ... a spontaneous ad-lib I could see in the script in the TelePrompTer.

The Four Tops performed gamely, although at this point, it's more like The One Top and The Three Bottle Caps, as only one surviving founding member, Duke Fakir, is with them. And The Blues Brothers did have Dan Ackroyd as Elwood, with Jim Belushi as " 'Brother' Zee Blues." They seemed to be having fun, even bringing three women from the audience on stage to dance with them.

I may watch the show tonight to see how it compares -- especially to see if Caitlin joins the Blues Brothers!

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CK, I must have just missed you.  We vacated the Mall just as people started showing up for the rehearsal.  No celebrities for us, alas.  But we had fun watching the Sailor Circus under the Big Top!

Your post reminded me that we always enjoy this broadcast. We'll be watching it.

We didn't watch the entire broadcast, but did see chunks of it. One noticeable difference: the night we were there, no one was allowed to sit on the actual Capitol steps, only on the West Lawn. 

And at the moment when John Stamos introduced Kellie Pickler, he said she had taken ill and doctors told her not to perform, so instead, we're showing footage from her performance at the dress rehearsal. See, there's a reason why they videotape the dress rehearsals!

Just to be sure nobody was fooled, this disclaimer ran throughout: 

Kellie Pickler's performance that you are watching was pre-recorded during the July 3rd dress rehearsal of A Capital Fourth. When it concludes, we will immediately rejoin our live July 4th performances.

I'm sure PBS ran that disclaimer because a couple years ago, it was raining on the 4th, but they put in footage of a non-rainy fireworks display on the national broadcast and took a lot of heat for that. Still, if you watched closely, you saw orange traffic cones and no people on the Capitol steps during Pickler's performance, and the steps full of people during the rest of the show.

One other thing: During the Blues Brothers rehearsal, they "spontaneously" went into the crowd and brought three women on stage to dance with them as they sang "The Land of a Thousand Dances," and gave a lot of attention to one named Caitlin. But during the live show, for about 30 to 45 seconds, they dropped in footage from the dress rehearsal. It was seamless, except for the "Previously Prerecorded" bug in the upper right corner of the screen.

Also, during the live show, the Blues Brothers "spontaneoulsly" went into the crowd, and brought the same three women on stage to dance with them! At least they weren't wearing the same clothes as they were the day before ... 

ClarkKent_DC said:

I'm sure PBS ran that disclaimer because a couple years ago, it was raining on the 4th, but they put in footage of a non-rainy fireworks display on the national broadcast and took a lot of heat for that.

There was a man we knew who watched championship golf on TV. His wife told us that one year he fell asleep and the action was stopped for heavy rain. They showed the previous year’s championship while it was raining, during which he awoke. There was some kind of remarkable play and he told her how amazing it was because the same thing happened last year!

Also, during the live show, the Blues Brothers "spontaneoulsly" went into the crowd, and brought the same three women on stage to dance with them! At least they weren't wearing the same clothes as they were the day before ...

I guess this way they can ensure a smooth performance with professionals rather than rolling the dice with actual audience members. Some people still think that Courtney Cox was spontaneously discovered when invited on stage by Bruce Springsteen. Nope!

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