Aside from the astounding presence of roughly 60,000 country music fans piled into one place and the mega-watt lineup of Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Hunter Hayes and Randy Travis, perhaps what proved to be the most exciting moment from Friday night’s (June 7) concert was witnessing Blake Shelton’s “Boys ’Round Here” come to life.
“Come on through the countryside, down to the riverside,” the CMA entertainer of the year sang to the thousands of country music lovers who flocked from all over the world to convene at Nashville’s LP Field, appropriately located only feet away from the Cumberland River.
As he sang for the boys “drinkin’ that ice cold beer,” the charismatic performer was met by roaring applause along with the simultaneous sights of men (and women) raising their frothy beverages in support. And when it came time for the ladies to shake their “Dixie sugar,” the female fans responded by wiggling their tail feathers to the infectious beat, earning a collective whistle from the men.
Opening with his fun-loving cover of “Footloose,” Shelton also performed “Mine Would Be You,” a song from his most recent album, Based on a True Story. Following the tune, CEO and president of Warner Music Nashville John Esposito, interrupted the singer onstage to present him with a plaque in recognition of album sales reaching over 6 million for Shelton’s Red River Blue project, also noting his current chart success.
“This calls for a drink, man!” Shelton responded, suitably cuing his next track, “Drink on It.”
“Hey, do ya’ll know what time it is?” he asked the crowd as the clock struck a few minutes after midnight.
“It takes a special breed of human being to stay out here this late,” he yelled. “You’re not just country music fans, you must be a bunch of freakin’ hillbillies!” he exclaimed, launching into his tongue-in-cheek tune, “Hillbilly Bone.”
“I’ve always wanted to sing a bone song at CMA Fest,” he comically interjected before ending the night with the sweet “Honey Bee.”
“I love country music, and I worship country music fans,” he said, sending the party crowd off on the right note as they went in search of their nightcap more than likely located amidst the neon lights of Lower Broadway.
And though Shelton elevated the party to full throttle, the night’s celebration got off to a rather slow start. Whether it was the downpour of rain shortly before the music began or the lack of recognition of the bill’s first act, Dee Jay Silver, roughly only a third of the stadium seats were filled by the time Gloriana sang the national anthem and the first main act made his way onstage.
No stranger to the spotlight, Travis highlighted the hits from his extensive career catalog spanning more than 25 years. Outlasting the rain, he serenaded the festivalgoers still making their way to their seats by performing a new song, “Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum,” in tribute to his friend George Jones, who passed away recently.
But it was Travis’ most beloved tunes that received the greatest response from fans who slowly began to fill up the stadium. Previewing his career-defining hits, the distinctive baritone singer pulled out a collection of his No. 1’s including “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “Three Wooden Crosses,” “Deeper Than the Holler,” “On the Other Hand” and ending his performance with the timeless “Forever and Ever, Amen.”
Sporting his signature red ball cap and fitted Rolling Stones cutoff T-shirt that effortlessly hugged all the right areas, singer-songwriter Kip Moore steered the party into overdrive with the most popular tracks from his debut album, Up All Night. Giving it the gas, he performed “Crazy One More Time,” followed by the well-received Top 5 track, “Beer Money,” prompting many in the crowd to raise their plastic beer bottles, sloshing their brews in the process.
Slowing it down a notch, Moore rolled into his sensual single, “Hey Pretty Girl,” the perfect tune to show off not only his smoky vocals but also his handsome good looks. Magnified on the large LED screens above the stage, Moore’s fetching charisma worked in tandem with the song’s equally alluring lines, leaving women swooning for more as he ended his set with the infectious “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck.”
From one country heartthrob to the next, platinum-selling artist and recently-announced CMT on Tour headliner Hunter Hayes showed off his electric guitar skills as he passionately performed his latest No. 1 song, “Somebody’s Heartbreak.”
“I just can’t tell you how cool it is to be sitting in front of you at LP field,”’ he exclaimed, seating himself at the large black piano onstage where he proceeded to perform “Wanted,” his chief career chart-topper.
Bringing out the evening’s first surprise guest, Hayes introduced pop star Jason Mraz for their newly-recorded “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me,” before ending his brief set with his current single, “I Want Crazy.”
Maintaining momentum, Lady Antebellum seized the moment with their appropriately titled track, “We Owned the Night.” The trio’s dazzling performance, consisting of tracks from their latest album, Golden, was interspersed with older hits like “I Run to You,” “American Honey” and “Lookin’ for a Good Time.”
And judging by the thunderous applause of their six-time platinum-selling “Need You Now,” an ode to a late-night, alcohol-induced hookup, it’s probably safe to say a few of these concertgoers probably lived out the words as the evening progressed.
Creating a musical vortex of buoyant tunes, Little Big Town blew in next, sweeping fans to their feet with a compelling rendition of “Tornado.” Wind machines added to the dramatic effect of the song as it sent member Karen Fairchild’s black fringe jacket and long dark hair flapping in the wind.
Beginning their set with the poignant new single “Your Side of the Bed,” the group made up of Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman performed from an elevated stage located in the middle of the crowd before making their way to the main stage.
Little Big Town introduced special guest Sheryl Crow, who performed her newest country single, “Easy.” However, it was their carefree collaboration on Crow’s “I Wanna Soak Up the Sun” that created a steady stadium singalong.
And safe to say, if the second night’s performances are any indication of what’s to come, no matter the weather, country music fans are in for a nonstop sunny celebration in Music City.View photos from Friday night’s concert at LP Field and check out full coverage of the 2013 CMA Music Festival.