At the end of a long Inauguration Day full of speeches and remarks, President Barack Obama let his body do the talking–with a little help from Al Green. When the First Couple took the stage at the inaugural balls, the First Man took the First Lady in his arms and slow danced to “Let’s Stay Together.” To say that “we the people” loved it would be a serious understatement.
Obama famously sang a few bars of the same song on the campaign trail almost a year ago. This time, Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson took the stage in a black mermaid-style gown and crooned the sultry R&B classic on stage behind them. Michelle Obama was resplendent in a fiery velvet and chiffon gown by Jason Wu. But the best part of the cameo was not the live show nor the wardrobe: it was how bonkers the Obamas appear to be for each other. Swoon.
Over the course of the night, the couple performed the dance three times: once at the Commander-in-Chief’s ball, held for military members, and once on each of two stages at the official Inaugural Ball. For the members of the general public who had been lucky enough to snag tickets, the First Dance was the highlight of the night — as evinced by the thousands of cameras and cell phones that were thrust into the air for every step of it.
Still, the competition for second-best moment was fierce. Alicia Keyes also performed, singing her hit “Girl On Fire” with the chorus changed to “Obama On Fire.” Country singer Brad Paisley strummed a long set and punctuated it with endearing commentary. “Our democracy is the envy of the world,” he told the assembled guests, “and tonight we celebrate by getting drunk in a convention center, like the good Americans we are.” And actor Chris Tucker got media personality Piers Morgan involved in some chair dancing while they sat in front of the CNN cameras: it was a scene straight out of some buddy-cop movie wherein a streetwise Tucker teaches Morgan’s stilted British character that rap is just another kind of poetry (as Jack Donaghy might say).
Lest non-attendees writhe with envy, it’s worth noting that the Inaugural Ball was not an entirely fancy affair. Yes, there was high-profile entertainment and black-tie dress code, but the cavernous space at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center had the ambiance of the world’s largest unfinished basement. For refreshments, the people were provided with giant bowls full of little pretzels–and drinks that cost about $10 each.
Of course, those assembled did not appear to give a hoot. The crowd ranged from spotty teenage boys to grandparents, of every color, from the U.S. and abroad. And they were there for the moment, not the food. “We decided to come right away after he won,” 72-year-old Millie Williams, a supporter from Louisiana, told TIME. “It is such a historic day, I just wanted to cry.”
With reporting by Elizabeth Dias