Sony Music Nashville again made itself the talk of the Country Radio Seminar Thursday night (Feb. 25) with a damn-the-expense blowout on the General Jackson showboat that featured performances by Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Josh Thompson and surprise guest Bryan Adams.
Approximately 700 guests attended the floating bacchanal, most of them in town for the annual radio broadcasters’ confab that closes Friday evening (Feb. 26) with the New Faces Show.
The “boat show,” as it has come to be known, is the one event of the three-day gathering that no one can walk away from since the General Jackson cruises on Nashville’s Cumberland River during the more than three hours it takes to stage the opulent dinner and concert.
“Welcome to Alcatraz,” beamed Paisley as he strode onstage to get the music started. “We’re all on this rock.”
Appropriately, he opened with “Water,” which just happens to be his new single.
He joked with the radio people about his relative inaccessibility since he’s become a star: “I may not give interviews or talk to you anymore, but I haven’t forgot you.”
Paisley then closed his segment with “She’s Her Own Woman.” But he would be back.
Pickler was up next. Dressed in form-fitting black, her hair blond again and sporting a neckline that plunged into the front row, the singer told the crowd that one of her great delights was getting to meet and share a stage with Loretta Lynn.
“I’m a big sucker for the classics,” Pickler asserted and straightaway proceeded to demonstrate that point by belting out Lynn’s truculent “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Her finale was her new single, “Makin’ Me Fall in Love Again.”
Newcomer Thompson sang “Sinner” and the title song from his debut album, Way Out Here, which was released this week. Lambert sang harmony for him on the latter number. The crowd awarded him some of the loudest applause of the evening.
Lambert eased into her set with the contemplative “The House That Built Me,” her new single that debuted this week on the Billboard country chart. Then she moved into her familiar combative mode with “White Liar.”
To wrap things up, she summoned Underwood to her side to help her rock the waters with a suitably frenetic version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band.” It was just a hint of the vocal fireworks to come.
Paisley returned to the stage to announce he would soon be filming a music video for “Water” and to ask radio programmers to invite their listeners to send in their funniest home videos involving water, the best of which would be included in Paisley’s clip.
Underwood’s star power was evident as dozens of the normally blasé radio folk clustered near the stage to take photos and videos when she came out to sing. Her set consisted of the tearful “Temporary Home” and the finger-wagging “Undo It.” During the event, Sony Music executives presented Underwood with a plaque commemorating 20 million digital transactions worldwide.
Brooks & Dunn, fresh from receiving a career achievement award Tuesday (Feb. 23) from Country Radio Broadcasters, had the audience up and cheering as soon as their name was announced.
The duo barreled through “Honky Tonk Stomp” and “Play Something Country” before Ronnie Dunn made what appeared to be a passing remark about some guy hanging around backstage. That guy, as it turned out, was Adams, who promptly trotted front and center to lead the duo in a spirited rendition of his 1985 hit, “Summer of ’69.” The much-awarded duo then retired from the stage to let Adams do a solo turn on “Run to You.”
(Rock endings have become a trademark of Sony’s boat shows. Last year’s non-country guests were John Kay of Steppenwolf and Peter Frampton.)
Adams called Paisley out to provide some harmony and guitar dazzle on “Cuts Like a Knife.” Upon Paisley’s exit, Underwood came back to trade vocal lines and go attitude for attitude with Adams on “It’s Only Love,” his 1985 recording with Tina Turner.
Turner would have been proud of her stand-in.
The General Jackson nudged into the dock just as the last notes faded away.