But after Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard tore the house down with a hyped-up version of their summer anthem “Cruise” to close the show, it was clear that their days of sneaking in the service door are over.
The pair opened with a flash of fireworks, playing the head-bopping song with foot-stomping glee as graffiti artists tagged up a wall near the stage with the song’s title in bright red and orange letters. If there was any doubt before that “Cruise” is the song of the summer, it was dispelled by the multiple shots of everyone from video of year winner Carrie Underwood to random audience members yelling along to every single word.
Rapper Nelly joined them to serve up his verse from the hit remix of the song, sporting an army green tank top with “Cruise” written across the front. He waxed poetic about country girls with their legs kicked up on the dashboard as the stage filled with break dancers executing acrobatic moves. The trio hugged it out just before the credits rolled, capping a night of equally thrilling performances from the likes of Underwood, co-host Jason Aldean with Lenny Kravitz , Taylor Swift , Lady Antebellum with Darius Rucker , Hunter Hayes , Luke Bryan , Miranda Lambert and others.
It was a fittingly big finish for what turned out to be a huge night for the duo. Earlier, they took home buckles for breakthrough video of the year and duo video of the year for their back roads ramble clip for “Cruise,” which features bikini models piling into pickups, games of strip poker and a patriotic picnic exploding into a riot of flying fistfuls of colorful dust.