There was also a touch of Chicago flavor, as Cannon introduced a pair of groups he said the first lady recommended — the youth choir Soul Children of Chicago and Black Violin, an African-American duo who combine classical violin and contemporary music. The two performed an uptempo version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” that had the crowd on its feet, after which the choir performed a gospel number that seemed to resonate in the hall as much as — or in the case of some of the parents, more than — the pop acts that preceded them.

But while there was a little “church” in the proceedings, and some moving performances, including from the cast of Glee, the night belonged to the kids.

The boy band Mindless Behavior elicited loud screams from the audience when they took the stage. And first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama got a special shout out from the group, as the Jumbotron screens captured them blushing in the front row.

Beyond the music, the evening was a showcase for Joining Forces. Fourth grader Jalen Franco, of Newport News, Virginia, whose mother is in the Navy, introduced Dr. Jill Biden, who expressed her thanks to the military families, and introduced a group of children from her home state’s 153rd Military Company, whose parents deployed to Afghanistan this month.

Mrs. Biden said she and Michelle Obama started Joining Forces, “to encourage all Americans to find ways to support our troops, veterans and military families.” She added that the charity is “especially important to me because i know something about being a military mom. Our son, Beau, is a member of the Delaware national guard, and he [formerly] deployed to Afghanistan.”

Dr. Biden introduced Mrs. Obama to a roar from the crowd. The first lady, sporting her new signature bangs, introduced children and families from Fort Hood, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickaem, Wright AFB, Camp Pendleton and Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, who were watching via satellite, along with kids form Air Station Sigonella, who contributed the night’s color guard.

Citing all the pomp and excitement of the inauguration, Mrs. Obama said that her “very favorite part of this entire weekend is being right here with all of you, because for me, this is what inauguration is all about.”

“It’s about being American and celebrating all the things that make this country great: our men and women in uniform, our military spouses, and their kids.”

Mrs. Obama said that when she and Dr. Biden proposed the idea of a concert, the celebrity artists jumped at the chance to participate. “And they’re not here for me,” she said.”They’re here for all of you, because they know the sacrifices that you make every day.”

Citing statistics about the families most affected by our deployments, Mrs. Obama said, “did you know that a military kid attends an average of six to nine schools by the time they graduate from high school? Just think of how much courage it takes to always be the new kid,” she added. “Think about how hard it is for military kids to be away from the ones they love the most. that’s just a glimpse of what it takes to be a military kid. it means always thinking about things that are bigger than yourself. it means growing up a little faster … than other kids.”

“You all are an important part of the greatest military on earth.”

Saying the country has a greater obligation to serve its military families than ever before, Mrs. Obama said that as the country draws down its wars, “we will not draw down our support for you.”

“We cannot rest, we cannot be satisfied until we are certain that we are serving all of you.”

With that, the first lady introduced the final performer of the night: Katy Perry, who closed out the show with a performance that brought the entire audience to its feat — with lots more high pitched screaming.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.