CMA Music Festival: Night One Stadium Headliners Pack Surprises

Night One at Nissan Stadium With Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean

Night one of the 2016 CMA Music Festival packed some major surprises for the sold-out crowd at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.

Those who missed the action Thursday (June 9) missed surprise appearances from Cam, Lady Antebellum, Maren Morris, Elle King and Randy Travis.

After the Oak Ridge Boys kicked off the night with the National Anthem, the Charlie Daniels Band delivered a fiery 20-minute set that included “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The audience gave a standing ovation when Daniels brought Travis onstage to enjoy a moment under the stadium lights. Both country legends will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this fall.

Next was Kelsea Ballerini, who shined in her CMA Fest headlining debut. Wearing a cheeky sequined romper and emerald cat eyes, Ballerini breezed through selections from The First Time, including “Sirens,” No. 1s “Dibs,” “Love Me Like You Mean It” and her current single “Peter Pan.”

The “No’s” shouted from the crowd on “Somewhere on a Beach” visibly blew Dierks Bentley away as he launched into his portion of the show. His set included “Say You Do,” “Drunk on a Plane,” the Black track “Freedom” and his latest single “Different for Girls” with King.

No performer could compete with the swagger Miranda Lambert brought to the show. Dressed in a silver mini skirt, high boots and a low cut top, Lambert owned the stage as she ripped through “Fastest Girl in Town,” “Baggage Claim,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Little Feat’s “Willin’,” an abbreviated version of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Your Red Wagon” with “Little Red Wagon,” “White Liar” and “Gunpowder & Lead.”

Including “Summer Nights” and their latest No. 1 “I Like the Sound of That,” Rascal Flatts played through a selection of hits and invited Morris onstage for a surprise performance of her breakout anthem “My Church.”

Cam and Lady Antebellum showed up unannounced to sing “Burning House” and “Need You Now.”

Aldean was the closer of the night. Earlier that afternoon, he headlined a pop-up acoustic show hosted by the streaming service Tidal at Nashville’s Family Wash.

Each act thanked country fans for their unshakable support. But Lambert said it best when she said, “Thank you for making this a family. It’s all about what we give y’all and what you give us back all year long, buying our records, coming to our shows and supporting us.”

The stadium shows continue Friday (June 10) with Frankie Ballard, Clint Black, Chris Stapleton, Sam Hunt, Eric Church, Hank Williams, Jr. and Carrie Underwood.

Check out some of the photo highlights from Thursday night:

Oak Ridge Boys

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Randy Travis and Charlie Daniels

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Kelsea Ballerini

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Dierks Bentley

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Miranda Lambert

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Rascal Flatts and Maren Morris

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Jason Aldean

Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.