LAS VEGAS — Rascal Flatts dealt country fans a winning hand Friday night (April 4), delivering more than a dozen hits at the ACM Party for a Cause at the LINQ, a new outdoor venue.
Florida Georgia Line, Justin Moore, Thomas Rhett , Cassadee Pope, Danielle Bradbery and the Cadillac Three revved up the crowd starting at 6 p.m. The show, which was being taped for a television broadcast, wrapped up at 12:30 a.m. It was presented by Big Machine Records and Outnumber Hunger.
A six-time winner of the ACM’s vocal group trophy, Rascal Flatts used the stage to remind fans of their impressive catalog. From “Life Is a Highway” and “Banjo” to their newest hit “Rewind” and their classic “Bless the Broken Road,” they cherry-picked crowd favorites for the longest set of the night.
The band will release a new album, Rewind, on May 13. The title track is the only new song they played on Friday night, but to keep fans around after midnight, they wisely relied on familiarity for “Prayin’ for Daylight,” “What Hurts the Most,” “These Days” and more.
Nominated in four categories, Florida Georgia Line played an abbreviated set, but just long enough to deliver “It’z Just What We Do,” as well as the popular hits “Round Here,” “Stay,” “This Is How We Roll” and the inescapable “Cruise.” You could see that crowd come to life, even the older fans who had a couple of beers in them.
“Thank you for changing our whole world,” the duo’s Tyler Hubbard told the crowd. “This has been an unbelievable ride for us.”
Meanwhile, just before FGL’s performance, Justin Moore emphasized his ACM nomination for top new artist about a half-dozen times through his set. Moore concluded his set with “Small Town USA,” a No. 1 hit from 2009.
Five years is a long time to still be considered a new artist, especially because Moore has proven himself a hit commodity since then. Along with “Til My Last Day” and “Backwoods,” Moore brought out Motley Crue’s Vince Neil to sing “Home Sweet Home.” Moore recorded the classic rock number, which he said is one of his all-time favorite songs, for an upcoming Motley Crue tribute album on Big Machine Records.
If I was a betting man, I’d wager that Thomas Rhett falls into the top new artist category next year. He’s charismatic, writes catchy songs and his pitch is true. Dressed casually in a ball cap and jeans, he also makes it look easy — and it isn’t. The crowd especially recognized the hits “It Goes Like This” and “Get Me Some of That,” and there was even an odd moment of somberness when he delivered “Beer With Jesus.” Of course, he reenergized the crowd with “Something to Do With My Hands.”
Danielle Bradbery and Cassadee Pope are both winners of The Voice, although their styles are radically different. Bradbery is poised, gentle and sings like she’s telling a story. Pope is more gregarious, ready to pump up the crowd with songs about bad romance. Fortunately for country fans, the label is finding room for both aspiring artists.
The Cadillac Three, a rowdy, rock-influenced band with a Top 40 hit called “The South,” set the pace for the night as the first performer on the main stage. (Yes, it’s a real band, even though they’re the ones Rayna James couldn’t sign on Nashville). Starting at 4 p.m., Chase Rice, Charlie Worsham and Will Hoge assumed the party stage in another corner of the parking lot, singing to the dedicated fans who arrived early.
Keith Urban, who is nominated in five ACM categories, will join fellow nominees Lee Brice, Dan + Shay, Brett Eldredge, Love and Theft Kip Moore and more artists Saturday night at the ACM Party for a Cause.View photos from ACM Party for a Cause.