The most dedicated country fans in the world also proved to be the wettest Saturday night (June 11) in Nashville as persistent rain soaked thousands of people attending the CMA Music Festival’s outdoor show at the Coliseum.
The weather served as a dramatic backdrop during Trisha Yearwood’s seven-song set. During a big finish for “Wrong Side of Memphis,” she took a breath as the pounding rain turned into a drum roll for the last word of the line, “Full tank of gas and a ’69 Tempest, taking me to that Nashville … siiiiiign.”
Yearwood didn’t bring fiancé Garth Brooks with her, but she did flash her engagement ring. “So, what’s new with you guys? Nothing’s new with me,” she said as she showed off the diamond on the Jumbotrons. “I’m really, really happy.”
Of course, most country fans are naturally curious about the couple, but others came just to hear the music, and Yearwood’s “Georgia Rain” brought down the house, especially with the showers providing a neat undercurrent to the lyrics. After thanking the audience yet again and telling them how much she loved Wynonna (who was coming up after Kenny Rogers), she bid farewell with “How Do I Live.”
So did many of the fans, unfortunately. Rogers opened with the lesser-known “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” then hauled out a cardboard cutout of Tim McGraw for an awkward duet. (McGraw’s vocal part was piped in.) It seemed like an ideal time to go — until the opening line of “Coward of the County” suddenly halted the mass exodus.
Rogers can cast a spell on an audience like few performers can. Despite being pestered by a friend to look at herself on the Jumbotron, one fan kept her eyes squarely focused on the Gambler, singing along without a care in the world. Later, a sad-eyed woman let the tears flow as she mouthed the words to “Lady,” without the slightest clue the camera was right in her face.
Rogers also teased the audience for swaying during “Lucille,” because they had been so still throughout his set. “You look like thousands of Stevie Wonders,” he said. By then, the vibe had mellowed out considerably and the rain had slowed.
To close out the show, Wynonna serenaded the diehards with killer renditions of her favorite cover songs, including Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine,” Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One,” Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” While the party was definitely smaller by then, it was still a really good time.
Earlier in the show, Jo Dee Messina and Trace Adkins relied on new songs and familiar favorites to keep the concert from lagging. Both are charismatic performers who are consistently entertaining on stage. Joe Nichols appears to have a smash hit on his hands with “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” one of the funniest drinking songs to come along in quite a while.
Miranda Lambert, who opened the nightly concert, always looks so serious onstage, but toward the end of her four-song set, she did happily point out where she used to sit in the stadium before she landed in the spotlight, herself. That’s one part of the CMA Music Festival that is often overlooked: the number of country hopefuls who come to the event hoping that stardust will fall on their shoulders. While all the other artists on Saturday night’s lineup have already accrued No. 1 hits and industry awards, Lambert is just getting started.
And if the Next Big Thing was indeed there in the audience Saturday night, you can bet he or she stood in the rain for more than three hours, singing along to every song. Because that’s what you do when you’re that dedicated to country music.