Which Presidential Convention Boasts The Better Lineup of Entertainers?

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As televised entertainment spectacles, the Republican and Democratic national conventions, at which Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will receive their parties’ nominations for President, rank somewhere around The People’s Choice Awards. But it won’t all be acceptance speeches and balloon drops. Both parties are drawing heavily from the world of showbiz to add some luster, cool points, and entertainment value to their conventions, which start next week.

Both conventions seem to be compiling lineups of stars who play to the base. At next week’s GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., the acts are mostly country stars, such as Lee Greenwood and the Oak Ridge Boys, and Southern-style rockers, like Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the Democrats’ confab the following week in Charlotte, N.C., the roster is more diverse, with Latino celebrities like Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba, and African-American acts like the Roots and D.L. Hughley.

Read on for the names of other stars who’ll be politicking over the next two weeks.

Besides Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Republican convention is expected to feature performances by country hunk Beau Davidson and country veteran Trace Adkins. And of course, Greenwood, singing “God Bless the USA.” Most of these are expected to be invitation-only concerts, meant to serve as fundraisers. Kid Rock and Davidson have both been officials in presumptive nominee Romney’s campaign for months.

It’s also not clear whether TV viewers will get to see any of these performances. They will, however, hear from Janine Turner, the Northern Exposure star-turned-talk radio host. She’s the only entertainer so far who’s scheduled to address the delegates in the convention hall.

Like Tampa, Charlotte will also be full of private concerts and fundraisers. Alba and her husband, Cash Warren, are hosting one on the convention’s closing night, at which Pitbull and Scissor Sisters are supposed to perform. (We’re guessing that no bands named after lesbian sex acts will be playing at the Republican convention.)

Also singing and rapping in Tampa in two weeks will be such acts as Common, The Roots, and KEM. A comedy performance is scheduled featuring African-American comics D.L. Hughley, Tommy Davidson, and Aries Spears. But the most star-studded event may be the private party thrown by Norman Lear’s group People for the American Way. Besides the legendary sitcom producer himself, Lear’s party is expected to attract such boldface names as Alec Baldwin, Tracey Edmonds, Jane Lynch, Seth MacFarlane, David Hyde Pierce, and Kathleen Turner.


Meanwhile, at the convention hall, the Democrats’ counterpart to Janine Turner will be former Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria, who’s been a co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign.

Notably nonpartisan in his support will be Jeff Bridges, who plans to attend both conventions to draw attention to his longtime cause of ending childhood hunger. The actor, who won an Oscar a couple years ago for playing a country singer in Crazy Heart, will bring some of that country flavor to the otherwise twang-free Democratic convention by singing with his band, the Abiders. (Yes, Big Lebowski fans, the Dude abides.) His concert will be at CarolinaFest, an event that’s free and open to the public, on the first night of the festivities in Charlotte.

It’s curious that there aren’t more big names showing up at both events. Of course, the fact that the MTV Video Music Awards are being held in Los Angeles on the same night as Obama’s acceptance speech may keep many musicians away from the Democratic convention. But what’s stopping the Chuck Norrises and Ted Nugents and Kelsey Grammers from showing their support for Romney in Tampa? Most likely, we’ll hear more names announced as the dates approach.

UPDATE: (Monday, August 27) Sure enough, more names have been confirmed as performers at the GOP convention. Among them are the Zac Brown Band, Southern rockers 3 Doors Down, rockers Dave Navarro and Matt Sorum, and onetime American Idol champ Taylor Hicks. Also, former Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith will be fronting the house band in the convention hall. Unlike previous conventions, where the house band toiled anonymously backstage, this convention will see the band onstage at all times, just like at SNL or a late-night talk show.

Performing at a couple of non-partisan private fundraisers will be Journey and Sara Evans. The country siren is taking the place of Wyclef Jean, who in turn took the place of Willie Nelson. What kind of party would draw fans of all three?


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