"We're in for a good night, Nashville," Keith Urban announced while kicking off the third annual We're All for the Hall concert Tuesday night (April 10) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
Photo Credit: Chris Hollo
The crowd of approximately 16,000 found out exactly how accurate Urban's words were when he, Vince Gill and a long list of friends provided surprise after surprise for the next three hours.
This year's event featured country music duos and groups performing, with Urban and Gill lending backing vocals and guitars as needed. As always, all proceeds went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum -- a place near and dear to both the headliners.
"The importance of that place outlasts every one of us that's going to be on that stage," Gill told CMT.com on Monday (April 9). "The beauty of the Hall of Fame is it houses all of it. It houses everything that's ever been. ... I have a really deep entrenched love and respect for the Hall of Fame and the folks who've come before me."
Urban explained his work with the event is his way of showing his appreciation.
"For me it's my little way of giving back to this genre really that's just given me my whole life," he said during Monday's interview. "I met my wife because of playing country music. I live in Nashville because of it. Our two girls were born here in Nashville because of it. So, really, country music's given me my whole life. This is my way of saying thanks."
The mutual admiration was obvious at Tuesday's concert when Urban was surprised onstage by Vince Gill, Diamond Rio, the Oak Ridge Boys and Rascal Flatts with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. The clearly-shocked star accepted the invite and told the audience, "This means the world to me."
After Urban's performance of "You Gonna Fly" and "Sweet Thing," Gill paid homage to Pure Prairie League (the band he joined in 1978) with "Amie" and the Bakersfield sound with Buck Owens' "Together Again."
The night's previously-announced list of entertainers was a smorgasbord of new and traditional country.
Thompson Square performed their flirty "I Got You" and "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," followed by Blue Sky Riders' singing "I'm a Rider" and "Dream."
Pistol Annies then brought their harmonies to the stage with "Hell on Heels" and "Takin' Pills." The trio seemed to genuinely enjoy having Urban and Gill's accompaniment.
"Thank you to Keith and Vince for being our backup men," Miranda Lambert quipped. "That's hot."
Diamond Rio had the crowd singing along quickly with their feel-good hit, "Unbelievable," followed by "Meet in the Middle." And Little Big Town subsequently performed a new track, "Front Porch Thing," and the always-entertaining "Boondocks."
The Oak Ridge Boys then arrived, and in mere seconds everyone was belting out "Elvira" along with the group, followed by "Bobbie Sue."
After a brief video featuring commentary about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and plans for its much-needed expansion, Lady Antebellum made their way to the spotlight and cheerfully sang "We Owned the Night" and "American Honey."
The audience was then surprised by one of the night's special guests -- Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams. Urban accompanied him as he performed "Tulsa Time" and "Imagine That."
"That's a major bucket list checkoff for me," said Urban. "In so many ways, it's like crawling into my dad's stereo speakers. That's what it was like for me."
Alabama put their rich harmonies on display in their heartfelt performance of "Feels So Right" and "Lady Down on Love." Then The Band Perry belted out "You Lie" and "Postcard From Paris" from their debut album.
Rascal Flatts showed their versatility with the title track of their brand new album, Changed, along with their high-energy version of "Life Is a Highway."
The night's last surprise was well worth the wait as Merle Haggard, another Country Music Hall of Fame member, closed the show to rousing applause. The country icon sang four of his classic hits -- "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink," "Today I Started Loving You Again," "Workin' Man Blues" and "Silver Wings."
The concert ended as all the entertainers were invited back onstage to sing the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There."
The evening left fans with, as Urban previously described, "the rich history we've got of groups and bands in this genre," along with a night of unforgettable music.
View photos from the We're All for the Hall concert.