LAS VEGAS -- Drawing from the stack of country music's current talent pool, a show with Hunter Hayes, David Nail and Cole Swindell is a pretty safe bet. With all three enjoying a swell of career momentum at the moment, they kicked off the annual ACM Party for a Cause concert series with a free show at the LINQ on Thursday night (April 3).
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At 22, Hayes still appears overwhelmed by his success, even though he is a confident and deserving performer. He told the audience he was honored to be there about, oh, 25 times. (Each time was met with shrieks from young women who had waited hours for his set.)
Hayes will release his new album Storyline on May 6, and the title track will appeal to those fans who appreciate his perspective -- a young guy with big dreams who isn't sure where a romantic pursuit is going to take him, but he's still eager to find out.
Showing a more vulnerable side, Hayes offered "You Think You Know Somebody," a breakup song he called the darkest tune on the new album. Naturally, he bounced back up with a grin, plenty of gratitude and hits like "Wanted," "Somebody's Heartbreak" and "I Want Crazy."
Nail bantered with the audience only occasionally but still satisfied the crowd of about 1,200 people with the strong, thoughtful material on his new album, I'm a Fire. While many young guys in country music are all about flirting, Nail is ready to get frisky in the smoldering "Burning Bed."
Like Hayes, Nail emphasized his appreciation at being back on country radio playlists, and the power of a hit was certainly evident when he sang "Whatever She's Got," one of the catchiest singles at country radio within the past year. Injecting some tempo into his material has really paid off for Nail, who can nonetheless kill it on ballads like "Let It Rain."
Swindell is making his first appearance at ACM Week, and if there's one country artist you're likely to see having a few beers at the casino bar, it's probably him. Swindell seems like a regular guy with a happy-go-lucky attitude that carries through in his crowd-pleasing music.
The crowd responded favorably to his breakthrough hit "Chillin' It" and certainly appreciated the praise he bestowed upon those troops serving overseas when he delivered his new single, "You Ain't Worth the Whiskey." Another tune is called "Brought to You by Beer," which sounds like an endorsement deal waiting to happen.
Sasha McVeigh, an aspiring country artist from England, opened the night with a brief set that included a couple of covers (Bob Dylan, Miranda Lambert) and an original song called "Mr. Brown Eyes," about a server she met at Margaritaville in Nashville. Turns out, he was in the audience. Even in Las Vegas, what are the odds of that?
The ACM Party for a Cause continues this weekend with shows by Rascal Flatts and Florida Georgia Line on Friday and Keith Urban on Saturday.
View photos from the ACM Kick-Off Party.