ACM Awards: Highlights and “Head-Scratching Moments”

Las Vegas Production Filled With Fashion, Emotion and Great Performances

This is the first time in several years I didn’t travel to Las Vegas for the Academy of Country Music Awards . Instead of getting all gussied up Sunday night (April 6) and teetering all over the MGM Grand in ridiculously high heels, I watched the telecast at CMT’s office here in Nashville — in my comfort clothes while savoring a hefty slice of key lime pie.

It was a new and thrilling experience in more ways than one because I was able to actually watch the show without the distractions of a pressroom, casino, red carpet and the hustle and bustle of the arena.

Don’t get me wrong. All of that is great, but this time, I was guaranteed a front-row seat to the party and knew I wouldn’t be missing a beat.

Of course, this opportunity for observation not only makes room for the good moments but also the “huh?!” moments, too. And since no one, including myself, is particularly fond of negativity, I’ve decided to break down my personal recap into highlights, heartaches and what we’ll just call “head-scratching moments” in no particular order.

The stars looked like stars — Hollywood superstars. And thank goodness for it. After the safe, albeit snooze-fest that was the Grammy Awards red carpet fashion, I was more than ready for some glamour — especially from the ladies. With Carrie Underwood in shimmering Oscar de la Renta, a near platinum-haired Miranda Lambert in a sexy beaded Randi Rahm gown, Kacey Musgraves in a billowy powder-blue Miu Miu number and Sheryl Crow in Christian Sirianom, everyone was on their A-game last night.

Justin Moore fought back tears during his acceptance speech for his new artist win. Yes, he’s had multiple No. 1 hits and albums, but his determined, yet humble, spirit and talent make him one of the favorites in the format. The Arkansas native thanked the fans and his wife and family and remarked that he would never forget this night.

Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks
Nicks has called Lady A’s tear-inducing ballad “Golden” their “Landslide,” so it’s no surprise that’s the song they picked to perform together. And just when you thought it couldn’t get more moving and spiritual, Nicks and the trio broke into flawless harmonies on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.”

Eric Church’s Heartfelt Nostalgia
“Give Me Back My Hometown” is everything right about nostalgia tunes and proof that Church is he’s so much more than the poster-child for modern day Outlaw country. His vocal delivery was impassioned but earnest. He simply sang the song and let the powerful words and arrangement do the work and all the talking. That’s the mark of a true artist.

Merle Haggard Tribute
As long as George Strait is alive and breathing, he’s going to be one of the best things in country music. He proved that again with his take on Hag’s “The Fugitive.” And I thought I would weep tears of joy at the sounds of the steel guitar playing under Lambert’s perfect performance of “The Bottle Let Me Down.” In the audience, Haggard seemed equally pleased.

Anything and everything Haggard did while sitting in the audience was marvelous, including his stoic expressions and his reactions (or lack of reaction) on camera. When he put his shades on inside that arena halfway through the show, well, he simply further solidified his status as maybe the coolest damn icon we’ve got left in country music.

Lee Brice’s Abbreviated Performance
His performance was much too short. Couldn’t they find just a few extra minutes for him to finish that chill-inducing performance of “I Drive Your Truck,” which was named song of the year? One verse and the chorus was not enough.

More Garth, Trisha, Faith and Martina
If you’re lucky enough to land perennial favorites like Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride looking that hot all under one roof at the same time, can we use them as more than presenters, backup singers and front row eye candy? Pretty please?

And Reba? Did I miss her? Was she there? Reba, I need to see your fabulousness.

Kacey Musgraves
Where was Musgraves’ performance? Nominated for female vocalist, video of the year (“Blowin’ Smoke” ) and song of the year (for co-writing Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” she took home album of the year honors for her stunning, critically-acclaimed debut Same Trailer Different Park. Yet we don’t hear a note from her during the awards show.

It was a total bummer for a lot of people, even for Kelly Clarkson, who tweeted, “Question … why didn’t @KaceyMusgraves perform tonight on the ACM’s?? There were like 30 performance slots haha seriously?! #wemissedout.”

The Future
Next year will be filled with possibilities as the ACM Awards show moves to AT&T Stadium near Dallas to celebrate its 50th anniversary. For that, I might just have to break out the heels again, y’all, even if I have to give up the key lime pie.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.