The loyalty and patience of country music fans was put to the ultimate test Thursday evening (June 11) as torrential rain and lightning threatened the first night of concerts of the annual CMA Music Festival. Around 9 p.m., only an hour into the show at LP Field, fans were evacuated and told to find shelter in the nearest dry spot, underneath stairways or awnings, anywhere away from the lightning.
Photo Credit: Ed Rode
No promises were made as to whether or not the music would return, but that didn't matter to the thousands of excited fans who decided to wait it out. And wait they did -- three hours in fact -- into the wee hours of Friday morning (June 12). Those who remained were rewarded with appearances by Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker before the show finally ended shortly before 2 a.m.
Prior to the evacuation of the stadium seats, the night began on track with a rigorous 10-song set by Brooks & Dunn. The award-winning duo performed an array of hits spanning the last decade including "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl," "Hillbilly Deluxe," "Put a Girl in It," "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)," "Red Dirt Road," "Play Something Country," "My Maria" and "Brand New Man." To much of the crowd's delight, Reba McEntire even joined the two onstage to sing her part in their recent collaboration, "Cowgirls Don't Cry."
Ending on a patriotic note, "Only in America," Brooks & Dunn welcomed members of the armed forces onstage, sending the crowd into roars of support as red, white and blue confetti shot from the stage.
McEntire's brief performance kept the energy rolling as she performed "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "The Fear of Being Alone." Luckily, she was able to squeeze in her newest single, "Strange," before the weather itself took a strange turn and cut her short.
By the time McEntire left the stage, the storms were headed straight for Nashville, and fans were immediately evacuated to a safer place. What began as an uplifting show was then a dismal display of rain, rain and more rain. As the showers continued, the temperatures dropped, leaving fans cold and looking for warmth. Many already drenched by the rain were left to cover themselves with garbage bags and cardboard boxes. Some opted to take naps in the stairwell while they waited, and others continued to party until the beer vendors closed up shop. Even still, attitudes remained hopeful that the show would continue.
After the third hour, by now early Friday morning, fans returned to their seats after being told the show would continue. Laughter, excitement and applause once again filled the stadium as fans hurriedly rushed back in, some even filling empty spots left by those who had not been as optimistic.
"Unbelievable," one of the security guards said as fans swarmed past him. "Only in Nashville."
It was Rucker, a country newcomer, who made everything "Alright" as he performed his newest single and thanked fans for sticking it out despite the weather. He kept the entertainment going with his No. 1 solo hits, "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" and "It Won't Be Like This for Long," and left the audience on a high note with what he called his theme song -- Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition."
Bentley followed and didn't fail to bring the heat as he offered a three-song set of with "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," "Feel That Fire" and the party tune, "Sideways."
The evening ended with Paisley checking for "Ticks" and wittily announcing that by the time the concert was finished, it would be evening again, nicely segueing into his next tune, the title track from his upcoming album, American Saturday Night.
"Half the time, [when] I say we'll be here till 2 or 3 in the morning," he said, "I'm joking."
Paisley also noted that his first Fan Fair, now called the CMA Music Festival, was back in 1999.
"None of you knew who I was," he laughed. "What a difference 10 years makes."
He then performed his heartwarming single, "Then," and rather appropriately wrapped things up with "Mud on the Tires" and "Alcohol."
With the show lasting several hours longer than anticipated, Rascal Flatts, Julianne Hough and Jimmy Wayne were forced to cancel their scheduled performances to travel to their respective tour dates in Oklahoma, Virginia and Massachusetts.
On the whole, in spite of delays and cancellations of fireworks and performances, fans' spirits remained upbeat throughout the concert. In fact, they seemed grateful for the night and morning full of music.
Plus, they were promised a special performance by Kid Rock if they returned for Friday night's show at LP Field.
View photos from Thursday night's concert at LP Field.