The concert celebrating the inauguration of Pennsylvania’s new governor Josh Shapiro, like the rest of the festivities held on the evening of Jan. 17 at Rock Lititz, attempted to showcase the best of Pennsylvania.
For example: the food being served included, among many other options, Pennsylvania regional specialties like tomato pie, scrapple and waffle bites, Primanti Bros. sandwiches and a full cheesesteak station. Dessert choices included whoopie pies, Tastykakes and Eat’n Park smiley cookies along with baklava and cheesecake.
Similarly, the live entertainment included performances by musicians that served as a sampling from across the state, with the two top acts being two of the best rappers from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, respectively.
For the opening entertainment, the Sixers Stixers drumline warmed up the crowd. While they had to fight the ambient noise of the crowd to get their chants heard, many in the front row of the crowd were game and joined in with their S-I-X-E-R-S chant. And the background noise couldn’t drown out the Stixers’ impressive drumming.
Next was indie rock group Mt. Joy, named after the Lancaster County borough found less than a half -hour drive from Rock Lititz.
Frontman and Philadelphia native Matt Quinn told the audience that the band was happy to celebrate the new governor, though he joked that the band may have some policy suggestions after they finished the song “Astrovan.”
“We’re singing songs about doobie-smoking Jesus, and Wiz Khalifa is also on the program,” said Quinn. “There might be certain initiatives that we would like to happen.”
The band’s cheerful alt-rock groove was a lovely way to ease into the rest of the night’s music. The group shared renditions of “Johnson Song” (which Quinn said was “one of the goofiest songs we’ve ever written” and that he was overjoyed that it was approved for their set list), “Julia,” a mashup of Gnarls Barkey’s “Crazy” and Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and closed with “Silver Lining.”
They were followed soon after by Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who remains an impressive singer at 82 years old – a full decade older than Earth, Wind and Fire singer Philip Bailey, who was still crushing it as of their concert in Hershey last summer. Robinson joked with the crowd that Motown Records began “30 years before I was born,” but it might be easy enough to believe that timeline based on how well he’s still singing and strutting across the stage.
The singer indulged in cheers from the crowd as he began his set with “Being With You,” and shared a microphone with one of his backup singers in an intimate moment that reminded everyone that yes, Motown music is incredibly sexy.
Robinson shared a few more jokes and stories, including one with an impression of friend and collaborator Stevie Wonder, between renditions of “I Second That Emotion,” “Tears of a Clown,” “Fly Me To the Moon” and “My Girl.”
He even shared the answer to a question he used to get all the time from friends, which hasn’t changed in all of his years in the business.
“‘Smokey, what do you do when you hear your music on the radio?’” he asked rhetorically. The answer? “Turn it up.”
Next was Meek Mill, the evening’s surprise performer, whose appearance was not announced in advance. Mill was an advocate for Shapiro during his campaign for governor and recently received a full pardon from Shapiro’s predecessor, Tom Wolf, for questionable charges that had dogged the rapper since 2008.
Mill’s set was brief, including segments from songs “Ima Boss” and “Dreams and Nightmares,” but between Mill’s enthusiastic verses and the pyrotechnics, it was more than enough to get an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Mill gave shout-outs to Shapiro and his optimism for his leadership of the state, saying, “if you’re from PA put a hand up one time!” and changing a verse in one song to “if you ain’t talking about Shapiro, what you talking about?”
Shapiro and his visibly excited family exchanged hugs with Mill on stage before the new governor gave his brief remarks. He said that Pennsylvania is a place where we believe in opportunity, real freedom and second chances, specifically citing Mill and his own experience trying to find redress through the criminal justice system.
“And folks, we can’t wait to get back to work for you tomorrow,” Shapiro concluded, as the DJ took over once more.
Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa performed last in the night, opening with “We Dem Boyz” and then going directly into his hometown anthem “Black and Yellow.”
“Make some noise for Josh Shapiro up in here,” Khalifa said. “PA all day!”
Khalifa delivered an energetic set, with the crowd cheering when he let down his locks during “Young, Wild & Free” (with the line “so what we smoke weed” notably absent from the chorus) and leading them to sing along to “See You Again.”
The rapper’s enthusiasm was infectious, and he was all smiles as he worked the stage. He ended his set with a brief appeal for the crowd to enjoy the rest of their night and travel safely.
“I’m about two things, peace and love,” he said, before bidding the audience farewell and one last round of congratulations to the new governor. And while Mt. Joy had been subtle about their suggestion for new legislation, Khalifa was a bit more overt: “And if you’re 21 and older, smoke some weed!”
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Gov. Josh Shapiro, with his family, wife Lori, daughter Sophia, sons Jonah, Max, and Reuben, pose for a photo before leaving the podium. Shapiro will begin his four-year term as governor with Lt. Gov. Austin Davis. January 17, 2023. Dan Gleiter | firstname.lastname@example.org
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