Neil Diamond's new song
"Freedom Song (They'll Never Take Us Down)"
WASHINGTON - It's not just fireworks that will draw crowds to the National Mall on Independence Day.
"A Capitol Fourth" is the star-studded annual concert happening on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
Back to host again for a second straight year is the man you know from TV's "Dancing With the Stars" and "America's Funniest Home Videos," Tom Bergeron.
"Usually I like to keep a very cold studio, which is not an option ... being here on the West Lawn of the Capitol in July, but this is worth sweating for. This is. It's such an amazing event. It's the national birthday party and it's such a treat to be here," said Bergeron during Wednesday's rehearsals.
Bergeron said his favorite moment of "A Capitol Fourth" comes before the acts even take the stage.
"That first moment when you step out on stage. When you get the full impact of a few hundred thousand people here at the West Lawn of the Capitol, Capitol building in the background. Even in this humidity I get goose bumps," he said.
Among those who will perform this year are legendary singer-songwriters Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond; "American Idol" winner Candice Glover; and Jackie Evancho, the young singer who just a few years ago stunned the judges on "America's Got Talent."
Also appearing this year: Broadway star, TV star and recording artist Megan Hilty; actor and singer Darren Criss from "Glee;" the National Symphony Orchestra and composer John Williams, who will conduct music from the movie "Lincoln."
Manilow, the musical icon who made famous songs like "Mandy" and "Copacabana," performed during the District's Fourth of July festivities in 2009.
"When I get here it's just the most emotional city ever," Manilow said.
"What we are about to do is very inspiring, very uplifting. I'm sure it will make everybody feel great."
Manilow will perform a handful of his hits, and also will break out a patriotic song for the crowd.
"I didn't think I'd ever have a chance to do this again," he said. "You get one chance in a lifetime to perform in front of the Capitol with all these people."
Also at the concert, Diamond will deliver his first national live performance of "Freedom Song (They'll Never Take Us Down)," a song he felt moved to write after the Boston Marathon bombings in April. Diamond will perform the song twice on Independence Day, giving the tune its debut at the 11:05 a.m. Nationals-Brewers game at Nationals Park.
Diamond said the Boston bombings and his visit with wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center inspired him to write the new song to express his love for the country.
Bergeron said the bombings struck a nerve for him as well.
"I come from Massachusetts, and I grew up north of Boston. I worked in Boston for many years. That day we were doing a live show on ‘Dancing With the Stars,' as I was communicating with my wife who was in Boston not far from the blast site," Bergeron said. "All of that gives it special meaning to me personally, and to know how well the show has integrated all of those elements into 'A Capitol Fourth' is really quite nice."
The concert starts at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on PBS.
If you plan to attend, it's strongly recommended you arrive by 6 p.m. General admission gates open at 3 p.m.
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