Anthony Blinken playing guitar(l), Blinken singing(r)


’21st century equivalent of Nero fiddling’: U.S. Secretary of State angers right-wing for Ukraine rock performance

'There are too many failed theatre kids/actors/musicians in politics.'


Marlon Ettinger


Posted on May 15, 2024

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken donned a guitar and joined Ukrainian band “19.19” onstage at the BarmanDictat club last night to strum his way through Neil Young’s 1989 hit “Rocking in the Free World”— leading to criticism online that Blinken was fiddling while Rome burns.

Blinken was in Kiev meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as Russian forces made significant advances in the Northeast of the country. It was the first time Blinken came to the country since the Biden administration passed an aid package for Ukraine at the end of April, which was held-up in Congress for months.

“Yesterday was very weird [and] surreal… but this all happened,” the band’s guitarist Arsen Gorbach told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.

While the band was initially told for security reasons that they’d be playing with Young, Gorbach said that Blinken wasn’t half bad, though they were disappointed that Young hadn’t showed up.

“He’s a very nice musician, he feels very [organic]… he was connecting with our band leader and me… like an ensemble, like a band,” Gorbach said about Blinken.

Not everybody appreciated the performance, though.

“21st century equivalent of Nero fiddling,” posted @Pbizzlemyshizzl on X.

“We’re not a serious country anymore,” added @NewsPolitics.

Other posters found the performance a humorous illustration of a trend where people in politics once nursed ambitions to make it in the arts.

“As I have said a hundred times before…. there are too many failed theatre kids/actors/musicians in politics,” posted Meghan McCain, the daughter of US Senator John McCain.

“You always meet the lawyer or the doctor who wants to be a rock star…” added @trippwhitbeck.

Blinken joked about his own musical aspirations at a State Department event last September, where he played a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

“I had some ambitions to try to make it in the music business once upon a time,” Blinken cracked. “But it turns out—it turns out I was missing just one crucial skill: talent.”

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*First Published: May 15, 2024, 10:43 am CDT