The rose-petal pate tasted too strongly of saffron, but the hummingbird tongues were exquisite.
OK, we’re joking. Carrie Underwood’s double No. 1 party Thursday afternoon (Aug. 11) wasn’t quite that opulent, but it came damn close. Held at Nashville’s Bell Tower, a gorgeously refurbished former church on Fourth Avenue South, the extravaganza put the usual Music Row chart celebration to shame.
Being spotlighted were Underwood’s two most recent singles — “Heartbeat” (which she co-wrote with Ashley Gorley and Zach Crowell) and “Church Bells” (jointly written by Crowell, Brett James and Hillary Lindsey). All four writers were on hand to share the glory.
According to its website, James purchased the church in 2012 and opened it as the Bell Tower event and concert space in November 2014.
Organized in conjunction with ASCAP and BMI, the major performance rights organizations, the celebration was dubbed “Storytellers Happy Hour,” a spin on the title of Underwood’s current album, Storyteller.
Unlike most No. 1 parties, which are tolerant of last-minute drop-ins, this one was open to invited guests only, who had to identify themselves at the door. Once they were in, however, it was posh treatment all the way.
At the top of the long, broad stairway leading up to the party area, there was a full bar that boasted such drink specials as “Church Bell Sour” (bourbon, triple sec, orange juice, sour), “Summertime Storyteller” (vodka, triple sec, soda, lime) and “Heartbreak Rita” (tequila, triple sec, sour, splash of orange juice).
For serious drinkers not inclined to order from the children’s menu, there were the usual industrial strength libations.
Just across from the bar, a line of guests inched along the copper-topped buffet counters, arrayed upon which were trays glittering with teriyaki tri-colored pepper beef rolls; jumbo shrimp cocktail shooters; grilled baguettes with olive tapenade, cranberry and tomato bruschettas; cheeses, fruits and vegetables with bleu cheese, honey Dijon and ranch dips; and salads of kale, grilled peach, spinach and strawberry.
At the end of this gustatory gauntlet, there stood a “dessert tree” constructed of rings of miniature cakes, each mined with such flavors as chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate peanut butter, coconut, chocolate cream cheese, strawberry, red velvet, vanilla butter creme and vanilla caramel.
Faced with such caloric profusion, avowed dieters could only weep and raise their hands to the heavens.
Circling the open space in front of the stage were tables topped with black cloths and decorated with stacks of old hard-backed books and bowls of flowers. Waiters holding trays moved discreetly along the periphery, sweeping up discarded glasses and plates.
Amidst such gilded distractions, it took some hectoring from BMI’s Jody Williams to call the crowd to order and bring the guests of honor onstage.
He praised Underwood, a BMI member, specifically noting her long string of hits, many of which she co-wrote. He said her tour will take her to seven other countries by year’s end.
In addition, Williams lauded Underwood as a “loyal member of the Grand Ole Opry” and reminded the onlookers that she will co-host the CMA Awards for the ninth time this year.
Michael Martin spoke for ASCAP, citing Crowell’s and Gorley’s voluminous songwriting achievements.
He then introduced John Titta, ASCAP’s executive vice president of membership from New York, who honored Gorley for having written 26 No. 1 songs.
Next, James and Lindsey were singled out for their own remarkable array of hits, including some Lindsey pop music triumphs.
Various publishers, representatives from the Country Music Association and Country Radio Broadcasters and Underwood’s long-time producer, Mark Bright, also came to the stage to applaud the honorees.
Once the speeches were over, everyone but Underwood and the writers left the stage. Then Underwood perched on a stool and, with the four writers serving as her band, enchanted the audience with stripped-down versions of “Heartbeat,” “Church Bells” and her new single, “Dirty Laundry.”
She also led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Lindsey, who had just turned 40.
The group ended its set with a spirited rendition of Underwood’s breakthrough hit, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
On their way out, guests were handed souvenir “circus posters” commemorating the occasion.
But it had been memorable enough on its own.