After the promises of hope and change four years ago, Barack Obama's second inauguration is likely to be a more sober affair, despite the superstar wattage of Beyoncé singing The Star Spangled Banner and the $50m-plus price tag for the weekend's festivities in Washington DC.

The record-breaking 1.8 million spectators who packed the National Mall to see America's first black president take the oath of office in 2009 will be replaced by a crowd expected to be less than half that size. After four years of a sluggish economy, the array of inauguration balls that followed Obama's assumption of the presidency has been whittled down to two official events this time: the inaugural ball, at Washington's cavernous convention centre, and the commander-in-chief's ball, to honour the US military.

Obama will make history in another way on Monday, becoming the first US president to be sworn in four separate times. On the first occasion, in 2009, the supreme court chief justice, John Roberts, muffed the wording of the oath of office, so Roberts and Obama held a second, untelevised oath-taking that evening.