Brad Paisley Gives Fans a Happy Sendoff at CMA Music Festival

Final Show Spotlights Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Justin Moore

Brad Paisley sent a horde of sun-and song-soaked fans home happy from Nashville’s LP Field Sunday night (June 13), thousands of them humming his closing song, “Alcohol.” His was the last official performance of the 2010 CMA Music Festival which began Thursday (June 10).

Assisting Paisley in his mission of musical mercy were Darius Rucker, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Kellie Pickler and Justin Moore. Paul Harris chipped in with some between-acts comedy of the redneck stripe.

Although fans trickled into the stadium more slowly than they did opening night, the size of the crowd, when it finally did congregate, didn’t appear to be substantially smaller.

Judging by the rapturous applause it gave Moore when he came out to open the show, it was clear the crowd still had plenty of energy.

Moore roared onstage with “Back That Thing Up” and, with little chatter between songs, plowed on through “Small Town USA,” “I Could Kick Your Ass,” “How I Got to Be This Way” and “Backwoods.” Still a fresh face to most country music enthusiasts, Moore showed he has the sass and substance to tussle with the big boys.

Pickler set phone cameras glowing around the stadium when she emerged in high heels and a bright red off-the-shoulder, knee-length dress. She opened with the assertive “Best Days of Your Life” and chirped on with “Makin’ Me Fall in Love Again,” “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” (which earned her especially loud applause) and “Red High Heels.”

Shelton walked out without any band fanfare and eased his way in to the crowd’s affection via the dark-hued but humorous prison-escape song, “Ol’ Red.” Then came his remorseful and self-berating “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.”

It was at this point that the set turned a bit ugly. After good-naturedly explaining to the crowd that he loved most things, Shelton added, without any noticeable context or provocation, “The one thing I hate is when a grown man wears his pants down below his ass.”

If such creatures were in the audience, Shelton continued, he had a song for them. With that observation made, he swung into “You Can Kiss My Country Ass,” a song entirely unrelieved by wit or amiability and whose message is a boastful intolerance of all those not like oneself.

The crowd, while enthusiastic, didn’t rise to the bait by singing along.

Fortunately, the incident was brief, and things brightened enormously when Miranda Lambert, the singer’s fiancé, strolled out to accompany him on “Home.”

“Every time I come to the CMA Fest, which is every year” said Shelton, as he set up his last song, I usually — usually — look out and see 60,000 rednecks. Tonight it’s worse. I’m looking out at 60,000 hillbillies.”

While one might question Shelton’s numbers, there was no question that he was readying the crowd for “Hillbilly Bone.” Realizing this, most of fans stood up and began swaying to the music.

But they really got revved up when Adkins emerged to the spotlight to sing along with Shelton, just as he’d done on the hit record.

Shelton ended his set sweat-soaked but triumphant.

Adkins was up next. “This is a first for me,” he told the audience. “It’s the first time I’ve opened for myself.” Alternating between his wide-legged stance and strolls around the stage, Adkins rolled out such crowd-pleasers as “Swing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “This Ain’t No Love Song,” “You’re Gonna Miss This” and “Hot Mama.”

What with all the earlier references to asses, it was only fitting that Adkins closed his segment, as he did, with “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Clusters of women leaped to their feet and shimmied their approval.

It was 10:42 p.m. when Darius Rucker came out, but the still-energetic assemblage greeted him with a tsunami of applause. He bowed in with “Alright” and built momentum via “Forever Road” and “Come Back Song.”

The crowd started cheering as soon as it heard the first strains of “Only Wanna Be With You,” which Rucker sang as a nod to his days with the pop group, Hootie & the Blowfish. The song was a hit in 1994.

Rucker moved on to “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and ended with an impassioned rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” It earned him the loudest and most sustained applause of the evening — that is until Paisley came out and cranked the adrenalin level up to 11.

The immensely talented Paisley has become country music’s most effective ambassador, beloved alike by new artists and Grand Ole Opry legends for his congenial personality, songwriting acumen and guitar wizardry.

All these qualities were displayed in abundance at Sunday night’s show. He did only nine songs in his 46 minutes on stage, but each had a two-for-one quality. First he sang the song, then he extended it into a separate piece of art through a veritable white-water ride of guitar riffs. No one else in country music radiates the pure joy of music quite as much as Paisley. He practically glowed as he performed.

For the record, his set consisted of “Mud on the Tires,” “American Saturday Night,” “Ticks,” “She’s Everything,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” “Water,” “Thought I Loved You Then,” “Welcome to the Future” and “Alcohol.” He strapped on five different electric guitars to work his way through the set.

Rucker and Moore returned to the stage to jam vocally with Paisley on “Alcohol.” Transported by the moment, Paisley picked up a hand mic and used it as a slide for his guitar.

Both Paisley and the crowd seemed charged up for more music when the lights went out at just a few minutes past midnight.

View photos from Sunday night’s concert.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to